York University professor too quick to denounce sexism in refusing student’s request to avoid women in class: rights advisor

While I have a lot of respect for David Seljack, and his work and that of Paul Bramadant were very helpful to the Multiculturalism program in developing greater awareness and sensitivity to religious diversity, I think he doesn’t quite have the balance of rights question right in the context of a diverse society that needs a certain degree of integration to function well.

“First question is ask the student what is his religious belief and why does it not allow him to interact with women. If the student said, as many people have implied, [his] religion feels that women are dirty, women are inferior, I cannot mingle with them, then Dr. Grayson should have immediately denied him the accommodation… If he just said it’s a question of modesty, or this is the way my religious group has decided to protect itself from what we see as an over-sexualized youth culture in Canada, or simply, this is how we assert our religious identity, then you weigh it, not against the imagined rights, or the principle of gender equality, but the real impact on the rest of the students in the class…  Instead, Dr. Grayson decided to go public and discuss this in large ideological terms, rather than on the specific merits of the individual case.”

The same question arises: what makes gender discomfort more acceptable as a reason for accommodation than racial discomfort? I think the broader framing of the issue has merit, as we always need a framework to assess how well individual accommodation decisions conform to the broader policy and societal objectives.

York University professor too quick to denounce sexism in refusing student’s request to avoid women in class: rights advisor | National Post.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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