How Big of a Problem Is Campus PC Globally?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Demonstrators attempt to enter the Oxford Union debating society on Feb. 5, 2015. Marine Le Pen was surrounded by security. (Alastair Grant / AP)

Another reader broadens the scope of our wide-ranging debate even further:

Campus PC is not a uniquely American problem. I am a 21-year-old American student currently attending one of the most “prestigious” universities in the UK. While trigger warnings are indeed prevalent in the UK (maybe not so much in the classroom, but rather online), the fight against provocative and inflammatory ideas and speech has taken the form of more direct censorship.  

A few examples spring to mind.

Recently, Marine Le Pen, who was deemed by many at my university (and perhaps not wrongly) to be a racist and a fascist, was invited to talk at a popular forum associated with, but not affiliated with, my university. While this could have been a great opportunity for people to listen to and debate her positions, instead there was an immediate backlash against her speaking and an immediate movement to prevent her from speaking.

Elected delegates from each of the colleges making up my university voted overwhelmingly in favor of releasing a public proclamation on behalf of the students that condemned Ms. Le Pen. Protesters physically prevented many, myself included, from getting into the venue where she was speaking. Whilst she was able to speak in this incident, Ms. Le Pen needed to leave with a police escort for fear of her safety.

Rather than engage constructively with Ms. Le Pen and her inflammatory remarks, students, at an institution known for its pursuit of rhetoric, chose to attempt to censor her. Similarly, last year, two guest speakers were prevented from engaging in a debate about abortion because some students deemed it inappropriate and non-politically correct for two men to discuss abortion without a female presence. While I won’t go into detail with regards to this event, one of the speakers has discussed this experience and similar experiences he’s had across the UK.

Any other notable examples spring to mind? Email and we’ll post them. Update from a reader:

Maybe there’s a prevalence of PC in English speaking countries? When I studied in the ‘90s at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, I was part of the students associations that had several clashes with the German speaking associations. At one general assembly of Swiss students, a resolution was passed so that women had unlimited speech time and man only five minutes. Lausanne delegation opposed it and had four women delegates out of seven.

That was in a congress in Lausanne. Another in Fribourg had special breakfasts for women and man. The Latins (French and Italian speaking delegations) had a befuddled attitude: please grow up and take on the real issues. There was little or no talk about sex or trigger warnings, but that was not to say that the Latins didn’t care. It’s a matter of course. I think there’s a real divide in the perception between Latin and Nordic cultures.