University 2016 ?????

When I was an undergrad life at university was pretty straight forward – attend lectures, do assignments and sit for exams. The goal being aimed at was to learn the scientific method and to recognise when mistakes were made.

I recall doing a chemistry examination and dutifully did the calculation, only to suspect that I had made a mistake somewhere in my numerical gibberish, and actually wrote so on my examination paper.  Afterwards the lecturer told me that he passed me for the simple fact that I recognised I had erred. Another lesson learnt.

Social life involved beer drinking and other strong spirits.  A guest lecturer in the geology school was the famous Finnish geochemist  Kalermo Rankama, whom I got to know and discovered that Finnish vodka needs to be handled very carefully. Needless to say I failed vodka 101. Otherwise playing cards at the student union facilities occupied spare time.

We didn’t have safe spaces then either but apparently universities now do, so it’s with trepidation that I chanced on an article by Quadrant Online titled “A Trigger Warning for Taxpayers” written by editor Roger Franklin. He refers to a lecture at Melbourne University’s geography department and links a video of the lecture.

Trigger warning? The joker in me automatically thinks of Roy Rogers looking for his horse Trigger, but I suspect this interpretation may be ‘inappropriate’ under the circumstances. Anyway the lecture was titled “F–k Neoliberalism” by one Simon Springer, and the linked paper (pdf) shows he just read his paper as the lecture. The paper is a mess of non sequiturs and cliches but just what neoliberalism has to do with geography is a bit of a mystery because the paper is actually about ridding the planet of neoliberalism, or capitalism, in Springer’s understanding, by prefacing everything neoliberalism stands for with the ‘F” word; Eff neoliberalism is how the young are told to coounter neoliberalism in the here and now. The only problem then is if “eff” neoliberalism is the means, then what ends are proposed?

Which leads to trigger warnings, and no it’s not Roy’s steed but the inane policy of ensuring the young peoples have a ‘safe’ environment in which their sensibilities are not threatened or upset by warning them in advance. So any conference now held at a university requires that conference delegates will:

  • Respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries.
  • Always get explicit verbal consent before touching someone or crossing personal boundaries.
  • Respect people’s opinions, beliefs, differing states of being, and differing points of view.
  • Be responsible for your own actions. Be aware that your actions do have an effect on others.
  • If someone is upset or offended by your actions, you need to take personal responsibility for this, regardless of whether the harm was intended.
  • Take responsibility for your own safety, and get help if you need it.
  • Be aware that children may be in the space, and that their safety needs to be ensured.
  • Not engage in any behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression, for example being racist, ageist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, queerphobic, ableist, classist, sizeist, biphobic, whorephobic, polyphobic, femmephobic, transmisogynistic or any bigoted behaviour.

Collectivists obsessing over individudal behaviour – a contradiction if there ever were one.

I wonder what trigger warning those students received before attending Springer’s lecture? Obviously conferences and lectures are neoliberal-free zones.

Mind you they don’t understand neoliberalism if they link Hayek to it.

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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