See update below.
Wow. Nick Cohen talked to Nicola Dandridge about this whole “it’s ok to gender segregate university debates at the behest of theocrats” idea for a piece in the Spectator.
Why not go further? Why not segregate all lectures at universities? Or as, I said to Dandridge, why not segregate by race?
Well she replied, Universities UK cannot recommend racial segregation because Parliament has banned it – wisely it now seems.
What about speakers insisting that homosexuals sit on one side of a hall and heterosexuals on another?
Dandridge appeared to find that notion genuinely discomforting. She did not want to see gays singled out, she said. Not in the least.
‘What’s your problem with women, then?’ I asked. ‘Why should they come last?’
‘Because,’ she replied, ‘gender difference is visible.’
So there you have it. If women did not insist on growing breasts and wearing their hair long, Universities UK would treat them with greater care.
Ohhhhhhhh – so it’s quite all right to discriminate among people for reasons that are visible. Now I understand. (But then why did Parliament ban racial segregation? Just a whim? Dandridge must be mystified about that.)
As I spoke to her, I realised that she had no understanding that powerful groups segregate to humiliate their targets and to enforce their ideologies. One of the academic critics of Universities UK gave an example I had never heard of to emphasise the point.
In the 1930′s Poland began to enforce segregated seating in its universities, with Jewish students restricted to the left side of the lecture hall. This, of course, allowed lecturers to address and take questions only from the right side if they were so inclined. Polish students of all religious persuasions protested by refusing to sit down in lectures. We can only hope that modern students will also protest.
Let’s hope they do. But they will protest without the support of vice-Chancellors or the appalling leadership of the National Union of Students.
I think Nick saw that example here. He reads B&W of course.
Update December 5
Maureen pointed out a CV of Nicola Dandridge that has since been removed (but is still available in the cached version) so here it is for the record. She’s a specialist in equality. Yes that’s right.
Nicola has been Chief Executive of Universities UK since September 2009. Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, UUK now has 134 members and offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, promoting the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally.
Nicola was previously Chief Executive of Equality Challenge Unit, the higher education agency which promotes equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Formerly a partner and head of equality at Thompsons Solicitors, the UK’s largest firm of solicitors acting for the trade union and labour movement, Nicola qualified as a lawyer in England and initially worked in the City specialising in industrial relations, before qualifying in Scotland and working in Glasgow for 10 years. She has published numerous books and articles on equality and the law, and has also worked for the European Commission on equality initiatives in Europe.