Recent Posts by Patricia Padurean

Canada’s Anti-Islamophobia Motion

motion is pending in Canada’s House of Commons that, if approved, calls for recognizing the need to

  • quell the increasing public climate of fear and hatred,
  • [condemn] Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and
  • take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it.

It also requests a study of how the government should create a “whole-of-government” approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination and collecting data on hate crime reports.

The House of Commons petition e-411 takes pains to separate violent extremists from the rest of the Muslim population.

Comment: The heart of the motion may be in the right place, but it does not add much beyond the existing Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which already guarantees equal rights and freedom from discrimination based on religion.

While this motion does not go so far as to criminalize speech deemed to be Islamophobic, it does open the door to the Canadian government policing speech. That is a slippery slope indeed. (Comment by Patricia Padurean)

Princeton suspends swimming and diving team over language used on team email list

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Princeton University, having been made aware of  “vulgar and offensive as well as misogynistic and racist” material on the men’s swimming and diving team email list, has suspended the team from competition. The university is now determining whether or not to cancel the remainder of the season. (New York Times)

The circumstances are somewhat similar to the kerfuffle earlier this year about leaked University of Chicago fraternity emails that landed members of AEPi in hot water.

At this time, there is nothing to suggest that these emails contained threats or that there was specific inappropriate behavior associated with the emails, only offensive language within private communications.

Unconscious bias, academia, and safe spaces

On October 27, Tiffany Martínez, a Suffolk University Dean’s List student and published writer, wrote a moving blog post about her professor’s questionable grading of her paper. Accused of plagiarism, Martínez contends that her status as a minority and first generation college student are at the root of her professor’s belief that the words she used were not her own.

In response to this seemingly biased grading, Martínez makes a larger point about what she perceives to be threatening discourse on campus.

As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces. –Martínez

♦ Comment. Martínez’s statement conflates two issues:

  1. The effects of unfair grading practices driven by bias, whether conscious or unconscious.
  2. The effects of words and language used in a classroom setting.

If a professor is using his students’ background as a grading criteria, consciously or not, this is of course problematic and damaging to all. This is the very definition of discrimination.

Words and language, when they do not constitute a material threat to a student, do not render one unsafe.

It is possible to exist in a space where challenging and uncomfortable words are used – even when these words may describe groups to which some students belong or ideas which some students hold dear – without that space becoming unsafe. Indeed, dialogue is the only safe way for a society to explore its most provocative ideas.

I would be very curious to know more about the language that Martínez finds oppressive. Without knowing specifics, I cannot pass judgment on what her particular experiences have been.

Generally, however, encouraging hypersensitivity by securitizing non-threatening language is just as damaging to tolerance, civility, and discourse as encouraging people to spew hate speech without a second thought. (Comment by Patricia Padurean)


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