Over at LSE there has been controversy for the censoring of the LSESU (Atheist, Secularist , Humanist) society, apparently due to two of its members wearing a set of Jesus and Mo tee-shirts during the Freshers fair.
This resulted in security guards and university officials threatened the students with expulsion if they didnt cover up their shirts. They did this because they claimed they had received complaints over them. Oddly enough however, when the BBCs Today programme inquired about it the LSE then seemed to be reluctant to say how many it had received or even confirm that there had been any complaints.
Given that we are talking about the university that gave Gaddafis son a PhD for a highly plagiarised (and highly paid for) piece of work, one has to worry if the real reason for this action was more about protecting the sensitivities of wealthy Arab donors, rather than student concerns.
However in many respects it represents a very worrying trend for universities. Traditionally universities have adopted a fairly secular approach to these issues. One which pretty much said that the one right nobody has on campus is the right not to be offended.
Indeed to give one example, when I was an undergrad I was a member of a Sci-fi & wargamming society (Sci-fi, Computer Strategy games, Warhammer, AD & D, comics, Manga, etc.). Anyway during the Freshers fair some genius in the SU decided to position our stand directly opposite the Christian Society…who had a particular Baptist streak in this uni! :no: So there were our guys wearing Black Sabbath and Judge Dredd tee-shirts, a Manga video going in the back ground and posters of wizards, etc. up directly facing a bunch of stony faced Baptists |-|…
…Oddly enough about a year later we heard rumours that the Christian society had been infiltrating spies into our society as theyd seemingly convinced themselves (by reading one too many Chick pamphlets :crazy:) that we were engaged in some sort of satanic stuff >:-[ (this is the problem with bible literalists, when they hear youre playing a game where characters have spells, they assume youre literally trying to learn how to cast spells, the idea that its just a game doesnt compute!).
Either way, in both cases the attitude of the authorities was largely to not get involved and basically boys will be boys sort of stuff. I assume there might have been a quiet word had with the committee of each society to maybe tone things down a tad, but certainly nobody came along with security and forced anyone to take down posters, or break up meetings, etc. That would have just been un-academic.
However it would seem that the LSE is taking a very different approach. And the people who should be most worried about this, ironically enough is anyone who is religious. As it suggests the direction that UK universities are now heading is form of secularism that effectively bars any form of religious expression that might offend others. This is whats played out in universities in countries like Turkey or France or in public schools in America where no form or religious expression is allowed…period! That means no burkas, no head scarfs or turbans, no crucifixs, no prayer rooms, no time off for religious holidays and if you want to run a Atheists or Christian society, do it off campus.
So it is for the sake of protecting religious expression that this action by LSE most be challenged, as much as it is about standing up for freedom of speech.