The Ramsay Centre and the Battle of Ideas on Campus

It seems as though the Ramsay Centre is getting one step closer to establishing itself on campus with a draft Memorandum being established with the University. A protest held today against the Ramsay Centre in light of the draft Memorandum is just part of a wider effort led by the campus Left to shut down diversification of thought on campus.

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As a Club that was founded on the distinctly Western ideals of Classical Liberalism that are known in the Anglosphere as Conservatism, The Conservative Club naturally welcomes the Ramsay Centre on campus.

The Left on campus paint the Ramsay Centre as a propaganda mill with no academic merit, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Ramsay Centre, on campus, will benefit students through a rich and varied curriculum steeped in history, increased funding for study in the Arts and diversify thought and discourse on a campus that has, for far too long, been an echo chamber for the Left. The Ramsay Centre will help re-ignite the battle of ideas.

If there was one thing that proves the aversion of the Left to differing opinions, it has been their pitiful attack on the Ramsay Centre made under the guise of ‘defending academic autonomy’. A recent anti-Ramsay poster on Eastern Avenue with the title of “What did Western Civilisation mean in Vietnam?” showed the iconic Vietnam War era photo of a girl who had been burned by napalm. While such an event is tragic, it is hard to see how this automatically precludes learning about Western Civilisation. One could apply the same logic to Socialism and say that due to the deaths of millions during the famine-genocide of 1932 in Ukraine, we should never learn about the collectivisation of agriculture.

Indeed, we should be free to learn about this failed socialist experiment, if only to criticise it. Students should be free to learn about the West from the Ramsay Centre, if they so choose and nothing suggests that they would not be free to critically engage with the curriculum’s content. After all, critical thought and dissent in academia are hallmarks of Western thought.

What the Left conveniently forget is that while there have been tragic and shameful episodes in Western history, by and large, Western thought has been a force and foundation for good. The Constitutions of countries in the Anglosphere are pervaded by principles such as the freedom of expression and religion, the separation of powers, and the checks and balances necessary for accountable and limited government. These ideas and principles are direct results of key events such as the signing of the Magna Carta, centuries of common law precedent and the American Declaration of Independence.

What the Left forget is that this academic autonomy that they supposedly love and cherish is something distinctly Western. Free inquiry has always been a central component of Western education and has led to astonishing leaps in scientific understanding and philosophical thought. At one point in history, it was thought that the Earth was the centre of the solar system. It was the dissent of people such as Galileo that advanced understanding. When miasma theory dominated both scientific and popular thought, it took the dissenting work of people like Pasteur to show that disease spread via germs. This autonomy to work, research and challenge has been a defining feature of Western thought which the Left seeks to kill off.

If it was really about defending academic autonomy then where was the uproar when other cultural and external institutions and research bodies were established on campus? It is quite clear that the efforts to shut down the Ramsay Centre are driven by a deep hatred of the West, with the overarching goal of tearing down and snuffing out dissent.

While the Left wax lyrical about diversity and the strength to be found in it, they strangely backflip when it comes to diversity of thought. From harmless chants of ‘Libs off campus’ to more threatening slogans like ‘Burn the Colleges’, the Left seems unable to even fathom that people with different opinions exist freely on campus. The prospect of greater diversity in thought fostered by the Ramsay Centre is anathema to them. They cannot handle the threat the Ramsay Centre poses to their stranglehold on campus discourse.

Academic freedom must be protected, and the Left are correct in a sense when they bring this point up. Of course, Western ideas, thought and history are open to criticism and debate. However, real academic freedom involves the free circulation and discussion of ideas. Real debate requires the presence of ‘the other side’.  It does not involve the active silencing of hitherto mainstream ideas just because a vocal minority on campus take offence with it.

If University students don’t engage with Western Civilisation, they will not understand nor appreciate our unique Westminster system of Representative Government, pillars of civil society such as freedom of religion and the events in history that have shaped life as we know it today such as the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance and the Reformation.

A society that is becoming increasingly ignorant of what has made us so great and so free will not have the collective wisdom of the past to draw on to meet future challenges and may concede freedoms that were fought for in centuries past. Things that were thought to be completely within the sphere of private life and worship such as the Seal of Confession are now seen as fair game for state intervention.

With freedom on the retreat in the media, on campus and in the social media sphere, it is vital, now more than ever, that the case for Conservatism and the Classically Liberal ideas that underpin it are promoted. The Ramsay Centre will hopefully lead the intellectual push-back and once again make Universities a place where ideas flourish and are debated, not shut down and baselessly attacked.

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