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An eminent professor cancelled by students at a top London university is launching a war on woke by founding a ‘faculty for common sense’ at a rival institution.

Professor Eric Kaufmann, 53, formerly head of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London is creating a Centre for Heterodox Social Science as a beacon of academic free speech at the University of Buckingham.

He hopes it will become a globally recognised centre for research into today’s culture wars, examining woke attitudes to controversial subjects such as trans rights and critical race theory.

Professor Kaufmann’s first course, ‘Woke: the Origins, Dynamics and Implications of an Elite Ideology,’ will be launched in January. A Masters degree will follow in September 2024. Both are the first of their kind in the world.

The move follows what he believes to be a five year campaign to oust him from Birkbeck for his right-leaning views on ethnicity, national identity, left wing ideology and religion. He quit at the end of August following a 20-year-career.

Professor Eric Kaufmann will teach Woke: the Origins, Dynamics and Implications of an Elite Ideology’ from January at the University of Buckingham 

The professor says: ‘I was cancelled by 1,000 cuts. Academia should be about the advancement of knowledge but you’re not allowed to advance theories which go against the progressive narrative. If you have a different viewpoint, you’re in the crosshairs.

‘The climate at British universities has worsened because morally absolutist, often younger, illiberal progressives are using pressure, public reputational attacks and social media to limit academic freedom.

‘It’s a target rich environment. The woke left can make your life hell and they know it. You worry about saying the wrong thing in class so you make it vanilla. You worry about getting your research grant so you self censor.

‘You’ve got to be in line with the orthodoxy, you can’t deviate from dogma. It’s an Orwellian threat to the enlightenment – free speech, equal treatment, due process, objective scientific truth.

‘I believe this new woke ideology threatens the foundations of our civilisation. Every parent in the UK – and around the world – should be concerned at how far it has penetrated into our universities, schools and elite institutions.’

Today Professor Kaufmann, who is half Jewish, a quarter Chinese and a quarter Costa Rican, reveals details of how he was labelled a white supremacist and a racist apologist for holding views which he defines as ‘liberal conservative’.

He has faced:

Social media pile ons, on Twitter, now X, organised by hostile students
An open letter to the Master of Birkbeck denouncing him and calling for him to be fired ‘for his defence of white identity politics and his countless attacks against Black Lives Matter and other activists and scholars of colour on social media’
Denunciations from a junior colleague who resigned because of the ‘impact on Birkbeck staff and students of being in such close proximity to his [Professor Kaufmann’s] far right followers’ dragging him into an embarrassing media storm
A number of hostile student course evaluations and letters, which he believes were a coordinated attack, resulting in three damaging internal inquiries
Being avoided by some of his colleagues who were desperate to avoid being cancelled by association

Mr Kaufmann wants Buckingham University to become the center for research into ‘woke’ 

Today he’s no longer part of Birkbeck’s politics department which is housed in the Bloomsbury Group study rooms once graced by TS Eliot, George Bernard Shaw and John Maynard Keynes. Instead he’s sitting in a smart London bar telling his story in the soft Canadian accent of his native country.

He says: ‘I’m the kind of academic who doesn’t want to see Roald Dahl’s writing bowdlerised, traditional things renamed and statues taken down. I don’t want conversations about immigration or homelessness and the causes of it simply shut down. But if that’s you in 2023 – then you’re radio active.’

As a conservative thinker he jokes that, at the start of his UK career back in the nineties he was ‘in the closet’. ‘I was careful to keep things at an abstract enough level, nothing too controversial. I ascended the university ladder. It went smoothly. It is a left wing environment – the jokes were all about the Tory party – so youinternalise the fact that conversation is not as free as it should be, but you adapt.

‘However by 2022 when I was nailing my colours to the mast, becoming associated with conservatism, the academic freedom bill and the anti-woke movement, there’s no question that I was a scalp.’

The academic freedom bill to which the professor is referring became law in May this year, aimed at protecting dissenting voices in Britain’s higher education sector.

It included the appointment of a free speech and academic freedom champion to the board of the Office for Students; strengthened the right to free speech in universities and extended it to students’ unions; and created a new complaints scheme for breaches, such as when a guest speaker is ‘no-platformed’ by opponents at a campus event.

Professor Kauffman co-authored the 2021 think tank report which was the source for several of its key proposals. ‘yes, that bill which the University and College Union hate, and which radical students hate …’ he shrugs.

Despite the protections offered by the new law, he decided he could not continue teaching at Birkbeck, relinquishing what he amiably agrees was a ‘fireproof job for life, a tenured professorship, gold plated with a nice pension.’

From today his new – and far more precarious – academic home will be at the University of Buckingham, one of Britain’s few not for profit private universities which is currently flying up the country’s good university guides. It is the UK’s top ranked university for freedom of expression, according to this year’s National Student Survey.

The University of Buckingham is the only independent university in the UK with a Royal Charter, and has around 1,000 students

Buckingham has been fiercely protective of its independence since it was opened by Baroness Thatcher in 1976. (Lady Thatcher later served as Chancellor.) Its current Chancellor is Dame Mary Archer, the solar power scientist and wife of novelist and Tory peer Lord Jeffrey Archer. Among its most eminent academics is leading educationalist and contemporary historian Sir Anthony Seldon, a former Vice Chancellor who remains an Emeritus Professor there.

Now Professor Kaufmann, an increasingly polarising name on both sides of the Atlantic, is joining them.

He was born in Hong Kong, the son of Canadian diplomat (who, remarkably, speaks 20 languages) and grew up in Vancouver before settling in the UK in the nineties. He has been married for 25 years to his wife, an economist, and has two children aged 23 and 20. He plays ice hockey in his spare time.

His arrival at Buckingham is guaranteed to cause controversy but the university has previously shown itself willing to stand by its commitment to diverse views and voices in academia.

Last year the current Vice Chancellor Professor James Tooley presided over the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Lord Tony Sewell, chair of the 2021 Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which was launched in the wake of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The commission’s report caused a political backlash when it concluded that while racism still exists in the UK, it is not an institutionally racist country. (Nottingham University, which had been due to bestow an honorary degree on Lord Sewell, backed out amid the furore.)

Professor Kaufmann’s own research work at his new Centre for Heterodox Social Science will begin immediately. From January he will be teaching a low cost 15-week online course open to anyone in the world, and he is already building the new Masters course. A Buckingham spokesman said: ‘Under the professor’s leadership the centre will stand as a beacon for freedom of expression and will seek to promote academic freedom of speech. He is an outstanding scholar who will add much to the intellectual life of the university.’

He says: ‘We need to study the woke left just as we study the populist right. It’s very important culturally, and now politically. It’s deciding elections in huge jurisdictions. It is a big aspect of sociology and politics and intellectual history which remains an under-serviced area in academia. It’s time to put it on the couch and take it apart.’

The professor knows he’s outnumbered by, he estimates, nine to one, in terms of left-leaning academics versus right leaning academics in the social sciences, and a generation of students who have been nicknamed ‘Yips, Young Illiberal Progressives. But he’s standing fast, a vocal and visible minority.

He says he felt attitudes towards him start to shift as early as 2016 and then harden throughout 2017-2018 when he began addressing the rise of populism. (He is very clear however, that at no time did he feel physically threatened or fear for the safety of his family.)

The University of Buckingham’s current Chancellor is Dame Mary Archer, a solar power scientist

The first significant pushback he recalls was when a newly recruited millennial academic in his department objected to him participating in a debate about the impact of rising ethnic diversity. It was being organised by University of Kent politics professor Matt Goodwin and included other mainstream commentators such as Sir Trevor Phillips and David Aaronovitch.

‘It was seen as too provocative,’ Professor Kaufmann recalls. ‘I was a head of department, the person who complained was a new hire. You would have thought that would matter but no, there was just this moral self righteousness.’ (The complainant was the colleague who would later publicly denounce him.)

He was subject to organised Twitter pile-ons over tweets as diverse as mocking Canadian premier Justin Trudeau for stumbling over the acronym LGBTQ to posting a picture of a plus size model. Referring to the picture he says: ‘I was asking something like ‘What explains this? Is it about the left and the desire to level hierarchies of beauty or talent? Or is it more about modernism and the shock of the new?’ That was seen as somehow racist because the model was black.

‘Offence archaeology dredges this stuff up,’ he continues. ‘These people look for old tweets that they can assemble into a new portfolio, joining the dots on the worst interpretation possible.’

The professor was also the subject of three internal complaints which he suspects were linked to his work on the academic freedom bill. He cannot discuss the outcome of these internal disciplinary procedures but will say: ‘You get an email saying a complaint has been registered and it puts the fear of God into you. You plead your case. They give you their verdict. It’s a court convened by the university.’

It was a year ago he realised he could not continue in post. He was finding ‘an awkwardness’ in his working relationships with some colleagues as his notoriety grew, and he was increasingly anxious that forthcoming research projects might be stymied by an ethics committee with one or two potentially hostile members. ‘My biggest worry was that they were going to start clamping down, essentially censoring me.’ he says.

Roger Scruton also made the shift from Birkbeck to Buckingham University 

Now he’s free of that potential threat. Interestingly, he’s not the first academic to have trodden the path between Birkbeck and Buckingham. The late philosopher Sir Roger Scruton – described by Boris Johnson as ‘the greatest modern conservative thinker’ – once said he was the only conservative at Birkbeck apart from the waitress who served the meals in the senior common room.

He latterly sought the academic freedom teaching an MA in philosophy at Buckingham which he cheerfully called ‘probably the least politically correct university in Europe’.

So is Professor Kaufmann anxious about starting his own pioneering work there. ‘No,’ he says. ‘Because it is so very overdue.’

Last night a spokesman for Birkbeck said: ‘Birkbeck is committed to free, robust, and open debate among all members of the College community. It has policies in place to enable free speech and procedures to investigate and act on concerns, should it be notified of these. Professor Kaufmann left Birkbeck at his own request as part of a restructure supporting the reorganisation of our academic departments.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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