We previously discussed the decision of Harvard to create a women-only hours at the college gym. It appears now that McGill University, an equally world-class academic institution in Montreal, is being asked to offer the same accommodation to female students who do not want to work out around males. student Soumia Allalou, 23, insists that women should not be forced to at a gym with male students. However, others raise the question of gender discrimination in barring male students solely due to their sex rather than their conduct. Allalou is a Muslim and wears a hair covering.
She notes that the school pool has special hours for women after a female student brought forward similar concerns. However, it would seem worthy of a debate about that accommodation as well as the new requested accommodation. These hours are set aside only for women while men have no such accommodation. Even it is were enforced as a separate but equal program with both male and female exclusive hours, there would remain the question of the wisdom of gender discriminatory rules.
The student union is working with Allalou to present the matter to a vote. Claire Stewart-Kanigan, the student union’s vice-president of university affairs insists “There has been backlash saying that women should just get over it and feel comfortable around men, regardless of religious or personal reasons that lead them to feel uncomfortable. But when we are talking about religious freedom, it’s not a question of asking someone to get over it. That is asking them to give up tenets of their religious practice, which is not something that we should be standing for at McGill.”
That is certainly one perspective. A different perspective is that the university is based on notions of equality and that students who insist on racial or gender or religious exclusion are not required to use such facilities as the gymnasium.
What do you think?