Dr. Dawg


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…my neologism for running one’s mouth after superimposing a shopworn debate upon irrelevant circumstances.

Progressives and reactionaries alike got the latest York University controversy wrong. Hats off to BCL for a view that is fact-based and rational.

The facts?

A student signed up and paid for an online course at York. He then discovered that it wasn’t to be entirely online: participation in a face-to-face class group was required. But his religion, whatever it happens to be, did not permit him to be in close proximity to women. So he asked for an attendance exemption.

Another student had already been granted an attendance exemption for a different reason. But in the instant case, the professor said No.

The York administration then proceeded to get involved, announcing that the professor was wrong to have denied the exemption. But this was not based upon the student’s expressed reason for preferring to work at a distance. According to Tweeter Tricia Wood, who actually works in the Dean’s office, the grounds for “accommodation” were that a dispensation had been granted to that other student, and that the face-to-face part of the course had come as a surprise, not having been mentioned in the initial course description.

Note that the word “accommodation” means much more than “religious accommodation.” But the latter connotation utterly falsified the ensuing debate. It became all about principle, detached almost entirely from the situation supposedly under discussion. Briefly, the student’s reason for an exemption became the issue, and most would agree that it is objectionable per se. So the usual horses were ridden into battle, and the battle continues to rage.

Meanwhile, the student ended up complying, and that matter, at least, is water under the bridge. If only he had advanced lack of proximity to public transport, or agoraphobia, or a peanut allergy, the professor might have granted his request. In this case, the York administration tried to overrule the refusal, not on the basis of religious accommodation at all*, but on that of boring old bureaucratic precedent. Now its position is being caricatured as political correctness “run amokā„¢” by the Usual Suspects, while the professor’s stance is being hailed in both conservative and progressive ranks as a defence of women’s rights. Petitions are circulating. The clamour of self-righteousness continues unabated, as moral panic sweeps the media.

What does it all come down to? A student’s mediaeval views alone require punishment of some kind, even to the extent of breaking with the past and making mandatory what was once optional. Doesn’t want to associate with women? We’ll damn well make him associate with them.

I can’t help wondering how the women in his class felt about that. Did they want to associate with him? Anybody ask?

*As it turns out, the Dean did use the term “religious exemption” in an internal memo. Given the previous exemption and a faulty course description, the administration apparently calculated that a case for religious discrimination could have been made out had a human rights complaint been launched.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on January 11, 2014 4:12 PM.

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