There's a little context needed here before I can dive into some interesting British news, and how well that news was reported by The Telegraph -- where (trigger warning) a journalist dared to talk to experts on both sides of a crucial debate.
But we need to start with a few Oxford facts. Specifically, it helps to know there are 38 "colleges" that comprise the famous University of Oxford. Someone isn't technically a student at Oxford as much as they are enrolled in one of these colleges, as Wikipedia explains.
Among Oxford's colleges is Balliol College, which numbers three former British prime ministers, five Nobel laureates and one monarch (Harald V of Norway) among its alumni. The school is more than 850 years old.
Also unique, it seems, is the attitude of Balliol's present leaders towards evangelical Christian students, or at least their student organization. The Telegraph picks up the tale:
An Oxford College has banned the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be “alienating” for students of other religions, and constitute a “micro-aggression”.
The organiser of Balliol’s fair argued Christianity’s historic use as “an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism” meant that students might feel “unwelcome” in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.
Freddy Potts, vice-president of Balliol’s Junior Common Room (JCR) committee, said that if a representative from the Christian Union (CU) attended the fair, it could cause "potential harm" to freshers.
Apparently, even the rigors of gaining a place at one of the world's top schools -- established centuries before Harvard or Yale -- leave entering students ("freshers" in British parlance) unprepared for the horrors of seeing evidence of the current existence of Christian faith.
Can you say "trigger" warning? Again?
In email correspondence, seen by The Daily Telegraph, [Potts] went on: “This sort of alienation or micro-aggression is regularly dismissed as not important enough to report, especially when there is little to no indication that other students or committee members may empathise, and inevitably leads to further harm of the already most vulnerable and marginalised groups. ...
He said that barring the Christian Union from the fair “may be a way of helping to avoid making any students feel initially unwelcome within Balliol”.
As the Telegraph notes, such moves made Christian students "feel ... unwelcome" at the school, but who cares about that in this postmodern era?
Joanna Williams, a former academic at the University of Kent, seen in the video above, is one of those who cared, and the Telegraph's reporters were smart enough to find her:
... Williams, a university lecturer and author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity, said the decision to ban the Christian Union was “completely bizarre”.
“It is intolerance being exercised in the name of inclusion,” she said. “They are saying: ‘Your religious society is not welcome here’. Essentially they are saying that the Christian Union is not allowed to recruit new members.”
In the end, Balliol relented -- sort of. School officials said the Christian Union will be able to have a table and recruit at future "freshers" events. Presumably, there's been enough chatter on campus to let those who might be interested know that the Christian Union exists.
I can find almost no flaw in this story, which was written by Camilla Turner, the paper's education editor, with Tony Diver, a stringer who is a student at Oxford. (Having briefly strung for the old Boston Herald during its broadsheet days while I was at Boston University, I have an affinity for campus correspondents and stringers.)
This is a well-reported story that's worth reading by those who care about campus freedom and religious freedom. My only question is why this event at Oxford didn't make more waves, media-wise?
FIRST IMAGE: The chapel at Balliol College, Oxford.