I received this comment in one of my earlier blog postings on the SMU controversy from “email@example.com“. I thought it was significant enough to post it here along with my rebuttal. It’s a real eye-opener.
Clarifications may be in order here. The protests held were not organized by a student group. The protesters were led by Coalition For Choice, a grassroots organization that espouses pro-choice values across the country. Some protesters were students, but most were not.
Excuse me? Clarifications may be in order, but so is the necessity for a little coherency and clarity.
If any SMU student was involved with those protesters, which you have admitted, then a call for disciplinary action is very appropriate considering their banchy-style shoutdown and intimidation of an invited speaker. Furthermore, if it is true that an outside group was able to shut down free speech on the University’s campus, then it is even more incumbent on the University to take action against the “Coalition for Choice” in order to protect its integrity as a free and open university. If it does not take action against this outside group, then St. Mary’s University has simply buckled to a form of feminist tyranny, and sent a message to their students (and to the country) that any group can simply show up on Campus to yell and intimidate their opponents into silence without reprisal. If this is the message that the University’s Administration wants to present as normal operating procedure, then it doesn’t have to do anything. But, of course, they really can’t be considered a real university any longer, either.
To demand disciplinary action against members of such an organization is to discipline people due to their free association with a group whose opinions run counter to your own. This in itself would be an act that would stifle debate.
Uh. No. If there were students who happened to belong to this “Coalition for Choice”, and were not present at that FeministShoutDown, I don’t believe they should be sanctioned. However, if they were there, and it appears that, judging by their age, a good number of those protesters were indeed students, they should be disciplined. Now admittedly, students at a Canadian university are not required to hold to many high moral standards these days, but surely one of them is to respect the principle of free speech. If you don’t at least have that, best to fold up the tent altogether because you’ve got absolutely no redeeming virtues left to offer.
On the topic of stifling debate, it can be argued (as it has been in circles at Saint Mary’s) that the very nature of the lecture served to shut down divergent opinions. The public lecture was promoted by a pro-life group and led by a lecturer who himself is pro-life. The same lecturer was given the authority to moderate questions from the floor. This gives proponents of one side of an argument the opportunity to determine who can speak, and for how long, without any chance for rebuttal. This develops a framework for a monologue instead of a dialogue, thereby becoming an outward sign from the beginning that divergent opinions will not be respected at the talk. Many students on campus are wondering if was indeed possible for anyone with a divergent opinion to have even asked a question an enter into a free debate in the first place.
This is such a ridiculous comment. I hardly know where to begin.
First of all, this was not a formal debate, although Mr. Ruba made it very clear that he would be most open to taking questions in his presentation. That does not sound like someone who wants to have a “monologue”. Indeed, for him to make his presentations in Canadian universities is to make it obvious that he wants to engage university students in a respectful and calm dialogue about his thesis. But before one can engage an opponent intelligently, one must be permitted to give ONE’S SIDE of the argument unencumbered and uninterrupted, which is far more than we can say Mr. Ruba received at St. Mary’s University. Admittedly, this was not in a debate format, but must it be? Is it now required at Canadian universities, that, to give a presentation, one must have a formal, moderated debate? How will this affect university lectures and the professors who give them? Will I now be permitted to crash a Women’s Studies course and demand that the University give me equal time to counter the professor’s arguments? Or will the Pro-Life Group be permitted to engage in the same kind of disgraceful behaviour as the Pro-Abort Stormtroopers engaged in when SMU’s Pro-Abort group invites Henry Morgentaler on campus? This I have to see.
And what about the respectful pro-abort students who wanted to hear what Mr. Ruba had to say? There were many of them in the audience. Not only did the Pro-Abort Stormtroopers take away the right to freedom of speech of pro-lifers, they took away the right of those who opposed Mr. Ruba’s position to at least hear what he had to say. I find that extremely ironic but typical of the militancy and stridency of the pro-abort groups in this country: they don’t even respect the rights of those who ultimately agree with them!
And even beyond all this, there is the question of freedom of association. The pro-life group had every right to invite the members of the student population and general public to come and listen to a presentation. Those who decided to come did so of their own free will. They freely decided to “associate” with one another for the duration of the presentation. The Pro-Abort Stormtroopers denied the freedom of that association. That is yet another disgrace, even above and beyond the free speech issue. (I note in passing that there is at least one professor at your “university” who gets it.).
But wait, let me guess, you don’t agree with freedom of association, either.
If this lecture was truly in the spirit of “free speech,” “dialogue,” and “open ideas,” then its entire format should have been different to allow for people who have different viewpoints to even have a fair chance to speak. To suggest that a lecturer of any discussion – let alone a discussion on such an important topic as abortion – can also moderate his discussion is a little short-sighted. A person in such a role can control who can ask questions, and how long that person can speak for. Whether or not the speaker would stifle debate, the lecture’s frames of reference from the very outset becomes hostile to anyone without divergent opinions.
See above. Your comments are absurd, and you haven’t thought through the implications of what you are saying. I somehow doubt, even if you were to maintain your view after a sobering second thought, you would hold the ProAborts to the same “dialogue” standard you comically want to hold Pro-Lifers to. If that is the case, then any speaker invited to your University would be subject to the your stupid format and restrictions. But, of course, we know that’s never going to happen (nor should it!) and your special rule is really only for pro-lifers. Isn’t that the truth? I believe it is.
Can I ask you, if you please, by what authority do you presume to regulate how campus groups host their guests and by what authority do you arrogate yourself to dictating the formats of their presentations?
I am neither pro-life nor pro-abortion in this argument. I make these comments only to raise questions about nature of the talk and its ensuing “free speech” rhetoric.
You are a pro-abort. That much is obvious. And as for free speech “rhetoric”, it’s only “rhetoric” when your rights are not threatened. Believe me, if the shoe was on the other foot, the University would be under lockdown right now.
It would be one thing to lose free speech to open thuggery, but to lose it on the basis of the absurd arguments that you have presented is quite pathetic and sad.