Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Freedom Indicator?

It is often argued  that the quality of a a university has something to do with academic freedom. Some Western academic have become noticeably self-righteous about respect for human rights in other countries. There have been criticisms of Yale University's links with Singapore, where gay rights are restricted.

One wonders whether Western campuses should talk so loudly about freedom. A recent incident at Carleton University in Canada suggests that when it comes to human rights some humans are much more equal than others.

Carleton has a freedom wall where students can write thoughts that are forbidden in the rest of the campus, probably even in much or most of Canada. Even this was too much for Arun Smith, a seventh year (yes, that's right) human rights student. From the Macleans On Campus blog:

"Seventh-year Carleton University human rights [apparently human rights and political science with a minor in sexuality studies] student Arun Smith has apparently not been in school long enough to learn that other people have rights to opinions that differ from his. After the “free speech wall” on campus was torn down, he posted a message to his Facebook wall claiming responsibility. “If everyone speaks freely we end up simply reinforcing the hierarchies that are created in our society,” it read. The display had been erected by campus club Carleton Students for Liberty and students were encouraged to write anything they wanted on the paper. Someone wrote “abortion is murder” and “traditional marriage is awesome.” GBLTQ Centre volunteer Riley Evans took offense, telling The Charlatan student newspaper that the wall was attacking those who have had abortions and those in same-sex relationships."

It appears that Arun Smith has been widely condemned and that he will be punished. What seems to have been passed over is that it is apparently necessary to have a wall where mainstream religious opinions can be expressed. Yes, I know that "abortion is murder" is a gross simplification of a complex philosophical issue but whose fault is it that it has to be expressed in three words?

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has issued a Campus Freedom Index for Canadian universities. Unsurprisingly, Carleton gets a C and 3 Fs. The best appears to be St Thomas with one A and three Bs

What about an international edition?

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