Konversation Kops in Kingston

Students at Queen’s University who sprinkle their dialogue with an assortment of “homo” or “retarded” could find out the hard way that not everyone finds their remarks acceptable.

The Kingston university has hired student facilitators to step in when they overhear homophobic slurs, remarks bashing women or racially tinged insults, along with an array of other language that could be deemed offensive.

But the move is sparking fresh debate over the line between politically correct behaviour and freedom of expression. Some students fear the university’s program borders on oppressive.

“Having a program like this in place could stifle public discussion if people are worried their private conversations are being monitored,” said Angela Hickman, managing editor of the Queen’s Journal, a campus newspaper. “For a lot of people, their opinions get formed in conversations and so stifling that is dangerous.”

The newspaper published an editorial last week criticizing the program as a “lacklustre” attempt to deal with social issues that could actually create hostility among students.

But Mr. Laker said the new “intergroup dialogue program” focuses on respectful, non-confrontational discussions that don’t impede freedoms.

“This is difficult work. It needs to be done very respectfully,” Mr. Laker said. “There’s really no interference.”

Under the new program, six student facilitators live and work within campus residences. Their mission is threefold: to engage students “spontaneously” by talking to them about an issue that has arisen, for instance, on campus or in the media; to hold movie nights, book readings or discussions on a range of social issues; and to step in when conflicts arise.

The Queen’s facilitators went through an intensive 11-day training course that touched on a variety of social issues and possible scenarios.

Patricia Gurin, professor emeritus of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, is one of the founders of the intergroup dialogue concept.

While she didn’t comment specifically on the program launched at Queen’s, she warned that such activities could backfire if they are not carried out by highly trained individuals who have experience with a variety of conflicts and social issues.

“It takes a lot of skill to do this work,” Ms. Gurin said in an interview yesterday…. (Source)

Professor of Women Studies.  No further comment necessary.

I long stopped supporting my Alma Mater.  I didn’t like going there then. I like it less now.

 

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