No Diversity at Trent University
A university should be a place where young adults are learning things—about the world, about themselves, about the meaningful interaction of people and ideas and history. It should naturally be a place where ideas are propounded, debated, tested and either adopted or relinquished. All this ought to take place in an atmosphere of wonder and passion and a delight in the creativity of the human soul. In this whirlwind of study and growth and discovery there should be a measure of respect and appreciation for the efforts and achievements of those who have gone before—at least where the pathfinders have honoured the fragile and sacred realm of the human spirit and have left mankind wiser and more sensitive to the privilege of living for a time on this fascinating planet.
At least, that’s what I think. That’s why I’m always surprised to find students who don’t seem to be learning from the past and don’t seem to show any desire to learn from the present. When I see university-attendees—those who have been chosen to lead students’ unions or students’ associations—who seem to lack any awareness of the privilege they have of examining ideas and expanding their narrow worldview to include concepts to which they have not previously been introduced, then my heart aches for the wasteland that our diminished concept of education has become.
At Trent University, the leaders of the Trent Central Students’ Association (TCSA) have decided that all students should belong to just one club. One big, all-inclusive club. At least, after reading the vague and evasive reasons given for not allowing a pro-life club (Trent Lifeline) on campus, that is what one may conclude. They have stated that the pro-life club cannot be allowed because it would be “exclusive”. First of all, I’m not sure where they got that idea. Secondly, I thought all clubs were in some way “exclusive”. Not in the sense of keeping others out but in the sense that people are only “included” if they see something “exclusive” to that particular club that causes them to want to join.
People who enjoy chess (or think they might enjoy chess) sometimes join a chess club. People who like archery might join an archery club. Ornithologists frequently get together to watch birds and sometimes they find it useful to start a birdwatchers’ club. These clubs might be deemed “exclusive” in that usually only a certain type of person chooses to join. But they are not “exclusive” in the negative sense of arbitrarily keeping people out; they are “exclusive” in the self-determination of individuals who choose whether or not they want to come in. So how can a club founded on a mutual interest in honouring and preserving human life, a club that invites students of every race and nationality to join—of their own free will—be considered “exclusive” in any negative sense?
When I lament that the university-attendees so intent on ensuring that people with opinions different from their own (I refer to the executive of the TCSA at Trent U.) are not learning from the past, I mean not only the somewhat distant past—the historical tragedies of censorship and enforced uniformity under failed Nazism and Communism, for examples. I mean also the very recent past, for instance the victory of freedom won just this past December by the pro-life student club, Protectores Vitae, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley, BC. The Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) had also refused to grant full club status to the pro-life club, insisting that their viewpoint was contrary to the mission of the KSA. (Huh? Protecting innocent human life and discussing the issues around pregnancy, personhood and personal choice somehow undermines the integrity of a student association?) However, the point is, after considering the lawsuit about to be launched by Protectores Vitae, KSA backed down and granted the club full status.
In July of 2010, Youth Protecting Youth, a pro-life club at the University of Victoria, won the right to exist with equal privileges and funding as other student clubs after the University of Victoria’s Student Society (UVSS) backed down. In that case, John Dixon of the BC Civil Liberties Association, wondered why it took the threat of a lawsuit to win the right to freedom of speech on the campus of a Canadian university. He reflected on the case this way: “Academic freedom, and the claim of universities to independence from outside interference, is predicated on the ancient and honourable idea that the pursuit of truth requires an environment of uninhibited discussion, where even the spirited clash of opposing viewpoints is valued and protected,” he said. “Hopefully, other Canadian universities will get the message.”
Apparently they have not all gotten the message. As the saying goes, “those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. And so those who fear debate and prefer not to consider the facts would rather use the brutal tools of suppression and censorship than to conduct a civil conversation on a controversial topic. If they would only read the newspapers, they would see that justice supports the concept of free speech. Why waste everybody’s time and energy trying to silence those with whom you disagree? I thank God for the determination and courage of embattled pro-life students across this country who have taken a stand, not only for the sanctity of human life but also for the freedom to discuss the deepest issues of concern to Canadians.