As we have discussed, there seems to be a rising level of intolerance in academia and campuses for opposing views. A recent international conference showed this intolerance in the response to former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Justice Rajinder Sachar in his speech on “Radical Islamism.” In an effort to address stereotypes and intolerance shown Muslims, Sachar noted that 95 per cent of beef traders in India are Hindi. The reaction was an immediate walk out with some academics demanding that Justice Sachar not be allowed to continue and turning off the lights and fans.
I have been writing a great deal about my concern over the erosion of free speech on our campuses. Part of the problem is that I sometimes have a difficult time even understanding the objection to some forms of speech or association as in the ever-widening range of things deemed “micro aggressions.” The latest such example is out of the University of Ottawa where students have been told that popular yoga classed have been suspending out of concerns that they involve a form of “cultural appropriation.” Jennifer Scharf, who have been leading the free weekly yoga sessions for eight years, is understandably confused but Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that “while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students … there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice.” Just for the record, the two horses on the university seal are not doing the “Lord of the Dance” yoga position.
The growing intolerance shown on campuses continues this week with a new controversy at Warwick University in Coventry, England where second-year George Lawlor, 19, has been publicly harassed and denounced for questioning rape awareness sessions. While universities have embraced the ill-defined concept of “microaggressions” and pursued speech deemed insulting or harassing against different groups, there appears to be little protection for those who espouse opposing views. The Warwick case raises an interesting example of legitimate and less legitimate responses to controversial views. I happen to disagree with Lawlor on critical points, but I am disturbed by reports of his being effectively prevented from going to class.
We have long discussed our close alliance with Saudi Arabia despite that country’s denial of the most fundamental human rights for women, non-Muslims, journalists, and political dissidents. While the State Department continues to vaguely reference “reforms” in the Kingdom, the Saudi Sharia courts and religious police continue to generate shocking medieval cases where people are flogged or executed for exercising free thought or associations. The latest outrage is the death sentence given Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene. He has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam, being an atheist (which he denies) and insulting Saudi Arabia. Many view his real offense as being his embarrassment of the infamous religious police (mutaween) in Abha after he posted a video of their lashing a man in public. As is often the case in the pseudo, “courts” of Saudi Arabia, he was denied counsel and any real opportunity to present a defense.
Princeton University has agreed to explore the removal of the name and images of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from buildings and school programs under a deal signed with protesters who objected to Wilson’s support of segregation, which was legal at the time. This action occurs as Harvard Law students have demanded the dropping of the school seal due to a connection to a slaveholder.
Harvard Law students have started a campaign to drop the historic seal of Harvard because it is tied to an 18th-century slaveholder. The students organization, Royall Must Fall, have held campus demonstrations demanding the removal of the seal. The three sheaves of wheat on the seal come from the Royall family crest (which raises the compromise possibility of just replacing that portion of the seal attributed to the Royall family). Third-year law student Alexander Clayborne insists that the effort is part of “[o]ur larger goals include decolonization of the law school in general and decolonization of the law school curriculum.”
A student at Georgia Southern University has triggered a controversy that has led to her being fired from her job and charges that she has engaged in hate speech after criticizing protesters at the University of Missouri. Emily Faz, a senior, was critical of social media postings where Missouri protesters objected that the terrorist attacks in Paris were taken too much media attention away from their story.