Toby Young resigns from Office for Students
He once wrote in support of ‘positive Eugenics’
After a week of criticism and calls for his sacking, the journalist Toby Young has resigned from the newly formed Office for Students. Writing in the right wing Spectator, he claimed his appointment had "become a distraction" from the "vital work" the office was undertaking.
Young, supposed champion of young people, had faced criticism both nationally and from Cambridge academics following his appointment. On Sunday, Varsity reported that 94 Cambridge academics had sent an open letter to Cambridge vice-chancellor, Stephen Toope, urging him to repudiate the appointment. CUSU president Daisy Eyre also tweeted that Young was "utterly divorced from student politics".
Judging from his past writings, Eyre had a point. He once tweeted "Serious cleavage behind Ed Miliband's head. Anyone knows who it belongs to?" Casual sexism was accompanied by able-ism. This was writing in the Spectator in 2012:
"Inclusive. It's one of those ghastly politically correct words that have survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be "inclusive" these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the library (though no Mark Twain) and Special Education needs department that can cope with everything from dyslexia to Munchausen syndrome by proxy."
The extent of Young's offensive output is illustrated by the fact he deleted over 40,000 tweets following his appointment. CUCA came out in support of Young, claiming that Eyre was guilty of "partisan critique".
The Office for Students itself has attracted controversy. Coming into force from April this year, the OfS has been set up with a view to aid student choice when choosing higher education, and to ensure that they are receiving value for money.
In addition to this, the Universities Minister Jo Johnson has claimed that the OfS will have powers to ensure universities uphold freedom of speech. He stated that "Freedom of Speech is a fundamentally British value by reluctance of institutions to embrace healthy, vigorous debate."
When asked her thoughts on the decision, CUSU President Daisy Eyre told The Tab that she was "relieved" and that Young had "no place in a regulator that is supposed to advocate for students interest". She went onto say:
"[Young] really was the tip of the iceberg in terms of the problems of the OFS. His appointment showed that the board didn't have the students' best interests at heart, as clearly demonstrated by the fact that there is no NUS representation on the board. At its core, the OFS is trying to increase the marketisation of High Education, increasing the commodification of a sector that should be working for the public good, rather than manipulated by market forces."
Young's resignation comes shortly after Theresa May's rather diluted cabinet reshuffle, which saw Education Secretary Justine Greening resign and Health Secretary resisting a move to Business. This resignation has already caused significant embarrassment to the government, with many wondering how Young could have been appointed in the first place, given his past comments.
Ultimately, thanks to legitimate, free protest far and wide, he has been forced to resign. Young can surely have no complaints about students exercising the "freedom of speech" his former office supports so vigorously.