December 29, 2006
Carleton University: Attacking freedom in the name of "diversity?"
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From: The National Post
Friday, December 08, 2006
The Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) has decided that pro-life groups on campus are not entitled to student-club status, will not receive student-union funding, nor be able to use CUSA-administered meeting rooms. The decision this week follows a similar decision this semester to deny club status to pro-life clubs at UBC Okanagan and Capilano College in Vancouver. That three campuses would be so infected by the totalitarian impulse is not shocking, but nevertheless appalling.
Student governments and student activists (often indistinguishable) do not usually deserve the scrutiny of the national press, on the sensible grounds that imprudent decisions made by novice politicians in the hothouse campus environment are best left ignored. Moreover, as is well known, student governments are usually comprised of a rather small and often radical segment of the student body, the majority of which never bother to vote in campus elections, and pay no attention to what their alleged representatives are doing. Don't blame Carleton students for their government.
That said, CUSA's action is Orwellian, mean-spirited, and more than a little weird.
CUSA's policy is aimed at what it calls the "anti-choice" agenda. Their anti-anti-choice solution is to do what they can to penalize students who argue for a different choice. The new policy at least clarifies that CUSA is not "pro-choice" at all, but flat-out pro-abortion. In CUSA's conception, choice means denying students the choice of forming clubs to reflect their interests. It is straight out of Orwell's 1984.
Most students on campus today weren't born in 1984. They, in fact, are too young even to remember the Supreme Court of Canada's 1988 Morgentaler decision - which did not rule abortion a Charter right, but only struck down the old law on procedural inequities - let alone the abortion debates of the 1960s and 1970s. So one wonders why this should be an issue in 2006. Doesn't everyone know that a tax-funded abortion for any reason at any time is an essential part of our Canadian identity? It certainly is distinctively Canadian - we are the only country in the world with that policy.
Perhaps it is because the generation on campus today is more inclined to question the extreme abortion license. Canadian data are hard to come by on this question, but the longitudinal surveys of American students show that today's students are more, not less, pro-life than their parents.
At Queen's University, for instance, the campus pro-life club was re-established recently after many years of inactivity. The issue arose at Carleton when a new club - Carleton Lifeline - held a debate on campus and increased its profile. Anecdotally, it appears that pro-life students are more confident of taking part in campus life today.
That makes CUSA's decision, frankly, mean-spirited. To the extent that pro-life students want to organize themselves, it is mark of civic engagement, a willingness to question campus orthodoxies, and of no little courage, given the hostile environment on campus. A vibrant campus should welcome such students. To set them aside for special, punitive treatment fails even the basic test of courtesy, to say nothing of fairness.
Moreover, the CUSA policy is oddly pointless. If the campus is as enthusiastically pro-abortion as CUSA claims, what added advantage is to be gained from this policy, at a serious cost in terms of the university's reputation as a place of debate and free speech?
On campus it is an open secret that diversity usually means everyone sharing the same opinion. Just yesterday on the Queen's Website, for instance, the media office offered five professors available for comment on the issue of same-sex marriage. All five were in favour.
That's not a surprise. The campus is the natural home of the intellectual class, long ago described by critic Harold Rosenberg as the "herd of independent minds." The weird thing about CUSA's decision is that students would want to advertise that, as if they aspired to join the herd soon. If so, they can rest assured. They already belong.
© National Post 2006