Up against the wall, [trigger warning]

It occurs to me: Universities used to be places where dominant societal narratives — civic, economic, cultural, political — were told to wait at the door. The university was supposed to be a space of alternative, and even resistance, to the words used and values espoused by politicians, businesspeople, the media, and other dominant sources of regulation and authority.
 
Somehow or other, that has turned around. The university today has become a place where dominant narratives are most pitilessly enforced. We don’t offer alternative, or resistance; but intensification, and insistence. Administrators, professors, and student leaders outdo each other in their eager shouting of accepted views, and silencing of others. Perhaps not on all files, but certainly on many. The ideological continuity of our society today — from student unions to board rooms to news rooms to cabinet tables — is absolutely astonishing.
 
I think we should get back, as the song says, to how we used to be. 

Author: JD Fleming

I am Professor of English Literature at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. My work is in intellectual history of the early-modern period (1500-1700), with a special interest in epistemic issues around the emergence of modern natural science (the "Scientific Revolution"). In 2012, I initiated the international conference series "Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World."

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