Ottawa Citizen: "The thuggery of student activists"
Great editorial over at the Ottawa Citizen, commenting on a major growing problem that few in the media dare to tackle... the thuggish tactics being employed more frequently, and more successfully, by the far left in Canada.
It's time for some tougher laws.
It's time for some tougher laws.
Mob rules at the U of O
The Ottawa Citizen - March 25, 2010
Ann Coulter's opinions can be obnoxious, offensive and just plain wrong. But she's spot-on about one thing: that the University of Ottawa has shown itself to be a "bush-league" school.
The thuggery of student activists is a growing problem at Canadian campuses, but the spectacle at the University of Ottawa was truly a colossal embarrassment, for both the university and the city. Ottawa is the capital of a G8 country, yet our premier research university is evidently so insecure and insular that a talk-TV pundit from the U.S. represented an intolerable intellectual threat.
We wish we could blame only the students for shaming the university. But the administration was complicit in the successful campaign to shut down Coulter's much publicized talk on campus.
It began when the university's vice-president academic and provost, François Houle, sent Coulter a bizarre e-mail, in which he made it perfectly clear that he detests her polemical style and that she should watch her back, lest she find herself facing "criminal" or "defamation" laws. He told Coulter -- in the most condescending of tones -- that the University of Ottawa has a tradition of "restraint, respect and consideration" and therefore that is why he feels it is necessary to invoke what "may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression."
Can anyone imagine an academic leader from Princeton University writing to a TV personality and saying, essentially: "You know, our students are very sensitive, so please when you visit don't say anything that will make them uncomfortable"? Would the vice-president of Harvard do this? Of course not.
The principal effect of Houle's foolish letter was to empower, albeit unwittingly, the student mob who came out Tuesday night to chase Coulter from campus. After all, Houle in so many words called Coulter a hatemonger and made it plain that her kind was not welcome.
The humiliating episode is a giant gift for a publicity-hound like Coulter. In an interview with a U.S. newspaper that had got wind of the incident, Coulter noted that students at serious universities are too "intellectually proud" to shut down speakers they don't agree with. She visits liberal campuses all the time without fearing for her safety. But at the University of Ottawa, she quipped, "their IQ points-to-teeth ratio must be about 1-to-1."
That smarts, but the University of Ottawa deserves the rebuke.
The shutting down of Ann Coulter is only the latest example of totalitarianism on Canadian campuses. At Concordia University in Montreal, thugs famously prevented Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking. At many campuses, pro-life student groups are harassed and denied official club status. When pro-choice student leaders at Toronto's York University learned that other students had organized a debate over the ethics of abortion, they promptly cancelled it, even though the event had been booked and the flyers printed.
Notice that this ongoing, organized effort to eliminate speech deemed politically unacceptable comes exclusively from the campus left. No one hears of conservative student groups physically interfering with left-wing speakers. A lot of conservative-minded students (and others) were unhappy with the recent Israel Apartheid Week, for example, but no one threatened to assault the organizers or disrupt the event.
We have no love for a buffoonish provocateur like Ann Coulter. It says something about the maturity and calibre of some University of Ottawa students that Coulter is the dignified party in this dispute.
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