The Thugs of Academia

So I see that the fallout of the University of Calgary’s boneheaded move to charge its own students with “trespassing” is beginning to backfire.  For those of you new to this controversy, you can read about the latest act of boorish intimidation by the University of Calgary here.

Ezra Levant wrote a great commentary about it on his blog last week, complete with the letter sent to the students by the University’s lawyer.  His blog post is well worth the read.  Here are some of Ezra’s observations about it:

That letter isn’t a real legal letter. It’s written very carefully, very skillfully, with one goal in mind: to intimidate the young students (see picture, above) who wanted to have their pro-life display. Imagine being a teenaged girl, and receiving a knock on your door. You probably still live at home; your parents are shocked when it’s the police asking for you. It’s a summons. You’ve probably not dealt with the police ever before – except for maybe a speeding ticket. And now they’ve come to your home, to charge you with trespass. It’s shock treatment – designed to cause the girls to give up, in fear and shame. It’s not a real lawsuit. It’s a bogus charge. Shame on the police and prosecutors for going along with it. Shame on the university for scheming up such a plan. The University of Calgary should pay massively for this abomination of everything liberal. They should lose endowments. They should lose grants. They should lose donations from thousands of alumni. Not just from pro-life alumni – though it should lose all of those. But from anyone who believes that a university is a place where different ideas can duke it out, and the best wins. If it’s a pro-life club today, it’s a pro-choice club tomorrow. It’s anyone tomorrow; everyone should be offended. What’s so fascinating about this letter is that it is so brazen, so unabashed. At other schools, like Queen’s University, their politically correct speech codes are given euphemisms. The censors there were called “facilitators”. When I was a student at the University of Alberta Law School, they had something called the Committee for Equality and Respect. That’s because they had a sense of shame, and they knew that what they were doing was un-Canadian and anathema to the spirit of inquiry and debate that ought to colour a university. So they did what Orwell wrote about: they bent the language to hide their true intentions.

Indeed the letter itself is amazing on a few points.  Let’s consider them one by one.

#1 – The refusal to provide security to its own students from violent factions on the University’s campus.

This year, however, the University threatened the pro-life students with arrest and academic sanctions, including possible expulsion, if they set up the display. The University justified it demands saying that it had received anonymous complaints about the graphic display, and said that the display could provoke violent reactions. (Source)

The University tacitly admits the violent nature of the pro-abort extremists within its midst, but refuses to extend the necessary security precautions to the students in exercising their free speech.  That’s a typical liberal response, if there ever was one. Instead of protecting the right to free speech, the University has cowered to these anonymous complaints because they don’t want to be bothered in protecting the principle of free speech if it benefits their ideological opponents.  This is becoming an all too common scenario in this country and indeed throughout the West. Instead of standing up for one of the fundamental rights of our society, liberals grovel at the feet of political correctness and turn their backs on fundamental principles of democracy to suit their own demented ends.

Of course, the University of Calgary does indeed have to be concerned about the pro-aborts within their midst.   Just last Autumn at the 40 Days for Life campaign in Ottawa, one of our vigilers who was praying peacefully and silently outside of Morgentaler’s abortion mill was brutally and viciously attacked by a pro-abort fanatic.  And, of course, we know the general sensibilities of the pro-abort zealots on campuses too.  Not only is there the threat of violence by them (as many pro-life students have personally experienced in the past), but they also have strong fascist tendencies to shut down any sort of debate on the abortion issue.   While all this may be true and troubling, the University of Calgary – indeed any Canadian or western university for that matter – should not be implicitly supporting this type of intimidation, much less being the instrument of that intimidation and bullying themselves!

Ezra Levant also honed in on this point in his commentary:

There is one last point in this letter that deserves our special execration. The letter claims that the pro-lifers were worried about violence. If they indeed said that, it is obvious that they were worried that they would be victims of violence – and that it was a request for the university, and perhaps the police, to uphold the law and protect them from violence. Instead, the U of C uses the pro-lifers’ own concern about being victimized as an excuse to kick them off campus. Instead of protecting students who are worried about violence, they’re picking on them. They’re blaming the victim.

Hello, 911, what’s your emergency? What’s that, ma’am? You’re worried your husband is going to beat you? Well, we’ll come right down there and evict you from your home. Hey — you’re the one who brought up the potential violence. Look, it’s easier to evict you than to stop him from beating you, right? C’mon honey, what are you going to do — hire a lawyer?

#2 – “The University has the right to control what people do on its private property.”

I think this might be the most offensive “defense” a secular academic institution can offer.  It’s so absurd and ridiculous that it is almost laughable. In fact, it’s nothing short of academic prostitution, a sell-out of rather staggering proportions.  Why?  Instead of admitting that Universities are supposed to be a place where vigorous debate is engaged and dissent is tolerated, the University of Calgary has opted to shut down the debate and the fundamental right to free expression of their own students by appealing to the technical legal question of who “owns the University”.  In other words, the University wants to ensure the pro-life students “understand” that the University is a “private” place and there is no guarantee that their expressions will be tolerated.  The assertion of privacy, you see, is necessary to ensure that conformity with the pro-abort clique is maintained and protected.  But what about this claim of private property anyhow? I guess, technically, the University is private property. But the University of Calgary, like most Canadian Universities, is heavily funded by the provincial government and, in part, by pro-life tax dollars…which makes it, in substance, a public institution along with its property.   If the University does not want pro-life tax dollars, then they should have the temerity to come out and say it.  I’m sure, however, that they will feel some discomfort the next time they come calling for donations from their pro-life (and free speech-respecting) alumni.  I won’t have the privilege of denying them my contribution because I didn’t go to the University of Calgary…and neither will any of my daughters.

#3 – “Charter of Rights & Freedoms does not apply to universities.”

This next issue is so remarkable that it bears seeing in the original text:

It is an incredible statement. One that I have no doubt is true, but one that I had no knowledge of.  To think that the one document that is supposed to protect our fundamental rights to free speech and expression (but which, in truth, has been responsible for dismantling of true human rights and freedoms in this country) would itself be exempt from applying to universities is rather ironic to say the least.  In light of how the University of Calgary has treated the students thusfar, it is, however, understandable. They don’t need to be worried about freedom of speech or expression or religious liberty because they are above such silly ideas.  They don’t need to be held to the same standard of tolerance that the rest of society must be held to.    Although they provide a venue and host liberal academics which spout and preach about the most distorted and demented view of human rights, and although they make tenure a religious dogma to ostensibly guarantee “academic freedom”, they themselves won’t be subject to their own principles when dealing with their own students.  That’s not only gross injustice. It’s obscene.

#4 – You’re Trespassing on Private Property!

I’m not exactly sure what kind of marketing strategy this is, but you have to think it’s not a very bright one. Universities compete ferociously for students these days.  The reason, of course, is that the market for university level students is drying up, like the rest of the segments of the population. You can thank contraception and abortion for that.  But I digress.  The University is charging the students with “trespassing” under the Trespass to Premises Act. 

Check out Section 8:


8   Nothing in this Act extends to a case where the trespasser acted under a fair and reasonable supposition that the trespasser had a right to do the act complained of.

Not only is the University going to lose the public relations battle (which is the real battle in this war), but they may even lose on the technical provision of the Act which allow the relevant exception above.

#5 – Check with us for approval before you express yourselves 

Next time you wish to express yourself at the University of Calgary, be sure to check with the liberal sensors so that you don’t breach the “limitation on the orientation” of your display.

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