The Australian student left has already begun advocating for trigger warnings and more safe spaces on campus. However, the news is not all bleak. Two new articles, both written by students, show there is still reason for some optimism.
Josh Koby Wooller, a University of Sydney student, has written an insightful piece for his student newspaper, Honi Soit, about the campaign to expunge all mentions of Cecil Rhodes at at Oxford University:
Dealing with the past through our current understanding of society requires no nuanced or contextual understanding and undermines the study of history. Tearing down a statue does nothing more than impose our values upon the past, therefore creating an impossible standard for figures in history. We are in effect engaging in historical revisionism…
No figure in history lives up to the standard of the present, simply because they were not surrounded by the contextual values of our era. Cecil Rhodes is a racist, but the image of the Rhodes scholarship is not. Many Rhodes scholars have campaigned against the colonialism and racism championed by Rhodes himself. His legacy to the university has changed since colonialism.
Meanwhile, University of Queensland student John Slater has written an opinion piece for the Brisbane Times condemning the safe space movement, and the recent cases of racial segregation at QUT:
Campus activism used to be about liberating individuals from being defined by their gender, race or sexuality. UQ student Merle Thornton made history in 1965 when she chained herself to Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel after being told women wouldn’t be served a drink…
If discrimination or bullying is a genuine issue for Indigenous students – or for women, queer and disabled students for that matter – why not root out the rot at its source? Why not deal with the bigots and bullies before construction began on race-selective study rooms?