After I graduated from the University of Exeter in 2009 I went straight into a job in Parliament while studying for a full-time Masters degree in the evenings. I chose Birkbeck College, University of London, because they offer full-time evening courses and I didn’t want to spend two years on something that I could do in one.
Exeter is a cracking university. I was there this weekend, so attached to it I am. My lecturers were by and large rational folk who didn’t use their platform as an opportunity to convert a few additional comrades. My dissertation supervisor, who also taught me for third year modules on theories of liberty and equality, oversaw my 15,000 words about the concept of toleration in the liberal tradition; to me, the term “rights” conjures visions of John Locke, JS Mill, Nozick and Rawls.
So when I applied to study Human Rights Law at Birkbeck I expected a year of reasoned discussion about the theories and notions behind modern human rights discourse.
Ohhh I was so wrong.
Birkbeck is a hotbed of communism; half my lecturers, although pleasant, were out and proud Marxists. I was the only (then) Tory in the village. My refusal to condemn the Western world and self flagellate for the sins of my forefathers were met with derision and horror. My audacity to work for a Conservative, the right, the devils, was met with abhorrence. I was shot down in no uncertain terms for questioning the use of “welfare” (for me, I think in terms of Ronald Dworkin, not state) and daring to query whether statist socialism is actually all that good a thing.
Today I received an email from my old university and it sums up finely just why I hated it so much; this left wing commitment to holding diversity and unqualified equality as inherently valuable in themselves. I have no problem with diversity, yet holding it as a value, an end in itself to be pursued, I find strange. Likewise equality; “equality of what?” to quote Amartya Sen. Liberty? Distribution? Before the law?
The email is paraphrased below; needless to say, I will not be taking part.
“Birkbeck Faces: A diversity initiative”
As you are a Birkbeck graduate, we are delighted to invite you to participate in a diversity and equality project about the Birkbeck community. We want to engage people who have influenced the ethos of Birkbeck, have been involved in change to promote diversity; or are role models who reflect the diversity of the Birkbeck community.
We would like you to provide a brief written statement, have your photograph taken and be willing to record two quotes from your statement on film.
If you would like to participate, please pick two words from the following list that are meaningful to you in relation to equality and diversity and write a statement of up to 150 words for each word.
The words have arisen from previous projects undertaken in 2011 about tolerance, freedom from discrimination, cultural diversity and identity. Some of these are concepts, some values, whilst some relate to the range of emotions that people have previously shared, all remain powerful.
Trust, Hope, Faith or Belief, Courage, Belonging, Forgiveness, Identify, Challenge, Idenitfy, Refuge, Invisible, Silence, Justice, Prejudice, Separation, Dignity, Dialogue, Respect, Acceptance, Traditions, Loss
We would like you to describe what your chosen words mean to you in the context of equality and diversity. You can discuss your own views and beliefs, talk about someone or something that has shaped these; or discuss your experiences or something you have witnessed.
Arrrgh. The very thought makes my face itch.