Queen's University in Kingston is so troubled by the expression of incorrect thought among its students that it has created a band of "student facilitators" to roam university residences and dining halls and stamp it out. These facilitators - spies, more like - will listen for offensive comments on race, gender and sexuality, and on behalf of officialdom take umbrage. The nanny state has hired the KGB.
Who thought this could work? Surely not someone who has ever been inside a university residence. Only someone bent on the perfectibility of humankind, a Soviet idea that sounds nice but led to the Gulag. Imagine these official facilitators for a moment. Queen's says they have been trained not only in "social-justice theory and practice" but in "community standards" and "alcohol issues." Perhaps they will talk to other students about their drinking, or their sexual behaviour. ("Sir, you are quite depraved, at least by the standards of our community." "Perhaps I should move to a different community?") Against such official intrusions into the private sphere, anarchy seems the most sensible response.
Queen's, which is not wet behind the ears, having been given its royal charter in 1841 by Queen Victoria, boasted of its commitment to "inclusivity" in its official organ, the Queen's Gazette: "The best universities make the most of every available teaching moment." Pravda couldn't have said it any better. The suppression and correction of inappropriate thought has become a "teaching moment."
This treatment of young people infantilizes them, and is at odds with the mission of a university. "Certainly a liberal education does manifest itself in a courtesy, propriety, and polish of word and action, which is beautiful in itself, and acceptable to others; but it does much more," wrote John Henry Cardinal Newman in The Idea of a University in the 1850s . "It brings the mind into form - for the mind is like the body." Well, never mind all that. Just send around the thought supervisors. Queen's apparently has little confidence in its mission.
"It's about learning shared humanity," says Arig Girgrah, the Queen's official who is in charge of the spies. No, it's about shovelling officially approved ideas into brains: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Queen's student. Queen's is teaching its students the lesson that the authorities don't trust them to make sense of the world on their own.