WHY have our universities turned so wimpish? For example, the luscious Grande Dame of feminism, Germaine Greer, was due to give a talk at Cardiff uni on the subject of women and power. But she was “no-platformed” – or, as we lovers of ordinary English say, dis-invited.

Why? Ms Greer is a radical leftie, the sort of person who usually appeals mightily to our lumpen intellectuals. What had she done wrong? She had written that men who have sex-change operations do not become women. Notice, she did not say that men should not be allowed to have these operations. In fact she explicitly declared: “Go ahead, you’re doing nothing wrong.” She merely pointed out that the recipients of such surgery never can be, women in the full sense.

Universities nowadays express concern for students’ “mental safety” – meaning they must on no account be exposed to opinions and arguments which offend the canons of political correctness. This is a disgrace.

Universities, the pride and joy of European intellectual life for a thousand years, are now afraid to expose students to ideas they might find challenging. But the whole point of a university education is to teach young people to be discerning – that is to tell one thing from another; in short, to think. By banning subjects and speakers who offer affront to their prejudices, our universities are failing in their primary task to teach.

This new fashion for institutionalised political correctness, and the raising of the habit of taking offence to the status of an art form, becomes too daft to laugh at. For instance, last September the students’ union at the University of East Anglia boycotted a local Mexican restaurant for its giving out sombreros to diners. They said that white people wearing Latin American costume is “racist”. Again, the writer Brendan O’Neill recounts how he was prevented from speaking about abortion at Oxford last year. The students claimed that having “a person without a uterus” speak on abortion would make young women feel “mentally unsafe”. By this token, in order to discuss the Nazis, you would have to be a Nazi.

This stuff has been around for a long time. When I was a country parson in Yorkshire in the last century, I went to York University to hear the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton. Only, the rentamob brigade of undergraduate oiks wouldn’t let him speak. They kept up a barrage of noise and vile abuse until Scruton was obliged to step down from the rostrum and the talk was aborted – if I’m allowed to say that, not having a uterus. The irony was that the subject of his talk was “free speech”!

It was worse than catcalls and abuse: Scruton was threatened with physical violence and, if he had not been led out quickly by a side door, he would have been harmed. Of course the university authorities were spineless. I wrote to the vice-chancellor and asked him what he intended to do about this disgrace. He wrote back: “What could I have possibly done?”

Well, he could have disciplined the students involved. Better still, having been warned there was going to be trouble, he could have attended the talk himself, mounted the rostrum and, when the unpleasant behaviour started, rebuked the perpetrators.

The problem is that this sort of rabid intolerance is not recognised as bad behaviour. The students who practise it regard it as a sign of virtue, of their personal higher righteousness. It is nothing of the sort. It is an outrage and the very denial of what a university is for.