Monash University, the first Australian university to introduce trigger warnings, appropriately begins their “#CHANGEIT” advertising campaign by declaring “SOME OF YOU MAY FIND THE FOLLOWING DISTURBING”.
This warning is followed by alt-right figure Richard Spencer being punched in the face, and clips of war zones, extreme weather, poverty, fires, guns, pollution, pandemics, fast food, Wall Street, Donald Trump, and protesters calling for a treaty with Aboriginal Australians and the shutting down of Manus Island.
The theme of the campaign is “Don’t like it, change it.” Monash declares, for example, that “If you don’t like Australia Day, Change It,” sticking their middle finger up at the 70 per cent of Australians who in fact do like Australia Day and do not want the date changed.
The corporate social justice warriors of Monash University are something to behold. In one breathe they’re promoting innocuous scientific research. In the next, they’re calling for a “revolution”. In an accompanying video, one student proudly declares that they want to “to get rid of capitalism”. You know, the system that has produced such immense wealth that means the taxpayers can afford to fund universities like Monash to the tune of billions of dollars.
Monash says “Rebellion strongly encouraged.” But they only endorse a single type of progressive left rebellion. At no point is Monash encouraging rebellion against identity politics which seeks to dehumanise and separate us. There is no encouragement of rebellion against undemocratic supernational institutions like European Union, as was embodied by the Brexit campaign. There is no encouragement of rebellion against red tape that is destroying small businesses, families, and communities. There is no encouragement of rebellion against groupthink at universities.
There is nothing wrong with a campaign that seeks to inspire students to help improve the world. The real concern is the presentation of only a progressive left idea of change.
If a university wants to show themselves to be open to intellectual debate and discovery, to pursuing truth and progress, they should appreciate there are a variety of ideas about how to improve the world.
The biggest achievements in humanity during the last 30 years has come not from calling for “rebellion”. Progress has come from the adoption of the free market and free trade in the developing world. This may not be as dramatic as a punch to the face – but it is responsible for lifting over a billion people out of poverty. Showing a middle-class Chinese person enjoying the fruits of economic development may not be as sexy as violence — but it might actually teach students something useful.
Advertising campaigns such as Monash’s Change It, and Sydney University’s “Unlearn” campaign, alienate those with conservative, classical liberal and libertarian perspectives. What if you are a conservative student or academic who thinks that some of the institutions we have inherited should not be changed? Or a libertarian who thinks the change we need is more freedom?
Monash University is not doing well in promoting different perspectives. Monash was the equal third most hostile university to free expression in the IPA’s Free Speech on Campus Audit 2017. The university recently introduced a social media policy that forbids students, in activities both related to the university and personal usage, from making comments that ‘might be construed’ to be ‘offensive’. Ironically, a student criticising the Monash campaign on Facebook could potentially be falling foul of the policy. So much for “rebellion”.
The overwhelmingly negative response to the campaign on the Monash University’s Facebook page, and other youth Facebook groups is indicative of how the campaign is already putting off many.
“Why do you promote someone being assaulted in the first frames of your video?” a student asks. “I saw a bit of Palestinian terrorist throwing rocks. So it’s a lefty video to incite violence. Self-defeating, isn’t it?” one young person writes. “Monash should change their name to Marxist university,” another says.
Universities will only endure with community support if they are places of learning where all ideas can be contested in pursuit of truth and progress. Explicit ideological tropes are below our places of higher learning.