Professors owe their graduate students more than what Lindsay Shepherd got: Clifford Orwin

One of my better former professors on the Shepherd case:

With the stunning revelation that there never were student complainants against teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd – not even one – the reputation of Wilfrid Laurier University should hit rock bottom. Ms. Shepherd’s hectorers were lying to her, like cops trying to extract a confession from a suspect, and they knew they were lying to her.

Rather than complainants, there were merely students overheard discussing Ms. Shepherd’s class. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen at a university, students discussing their courses (hopefully with some animation)? Even taking strong stances pro and con about the teachers and their presentations? My dream of the perfect end to one of my lectures would be a vast crescendo of buzz, indicating that the students will carry the discussion far beyond the lecture hall. If that was Ms. Shepherd’s effect on her students, then some Canadian university should snap her up. One doubts that it will be Laurier.

That there were no student complainants is, as far as it goes, encouraging. Yes, there’s this culture of outrage on our campuses, and the multiplication of groups dedicated to squelching those who offend them. But only a tiny minority of students believes that to disagree with them is an affront (or even a threat) to them. Most are grateful to teachers who introduce them to opinions other than their own. They recognize this as an integral (even the most important) part of a true education. I’ve been disagreeing with students for 43 years now, and they have thanked me for it.

To confront Ms. Shepherd with these phantom complainants was indefensible. You hear a lot about vulnerable groups on campus; you can count graduate students among them. Begin with their material problems: They are faced with a declining job market and the rising costs of education.

This economic reality aggravates the predicament of graduate students in other ways, including their dependence on the opinions of their supervisors. The temptation is to play it safe in the hopes that the jobs will go to those who have done so. (This, too, was an anxiety on which Ms. Shepherd’s supervisors were playing: conform or find yourself professionally toxic.)

In these difficult times, professors are called more than ever to perform their duty of mentorship. Whether in supervising students’ theses or their teaching, we must put their intellectual development first.

In the case of teaching, that means both modelling best practices on the one hand and encouraging our teaching assistants (TAs) to find their own voices on the other. Here Ms. Shepherd’s teachers set bad examples in both regards. They sought to crush her budding intellectual and pedagogical independence; attempted to coerce her into agreement with them concerning both the substance and the methods of their course; banned her from bringing further videos into her classroom and required her to submit all future teaching materials for their prior review. This was an object lesson in how not to treat a graduate student. Did it not occur to them that a TA as engaged and lively as Ms. Shepherd was a blessing to their program?

Every large university course is a collaboration between the lecturer and the teaching assistants. Of course there must be co-ordination, and the TAs must avoid contradicting the lecturer in ways that might confuse the students. But the success of any large course depends on the TAs’ contribution as much as on the lecturer’s. That contribution should not be micromanaged. The lecturer should offer them advice where they solicit it, leave them to spread their wings where they don’t. Should an issue arise between a student and a TA, then of course I must look into it. Otherwise, the lectures are mine, the tutorials are theirs. The course will succeed only if they buy into this arrangement. If I treat them like Lindsay Shepherd was treated, they won’t.

via Professors owe their graduate students more than what Lindsay Shepherd got – The Globe and Mail

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

Good piece by McParland:

The Appeal Court’s reasoning is sound.

“Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives,” wrote Justice George Strathy.

The decision notes that allowing long-term expats to vote would violate a “social contract” that binds Canadians to laws that they have played a hand in creating.

This makes absolute sense. For every fervent patriot like Sutherland, who presumably lives in the U.S. due to the demands of his acting career, there are tens of thousands, of passport-holders who barely give Canada a thought. At the time the five-year rule was introduced, Canada was in the process of handing out thousands of passports to “investors” who wanted it mainly as a hedge against turmoil in their home country. If you recall, one of Stephen Harper’s earliest international acts as prime minister was a dramatic evacuation of Canadian passport-holders from Lebanon during a confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah forces. It was great theatre, except Canadians learned that thousands of those affected proved to be Lebanese citizens who had met the minimum standards for a Canadian passport before returning home, hanging on to the Canadian document in case of just such an emergency. They knew little about Canada, but without the five-year rule, 50,000 of them would have had the right to vote.

Lebanon is far from the only country where that’s the case. The Vancouver Sun reported in 2013 there were 350,000 residents of Hong Kong holding Canadian passports, and that Asians continue to leave the country in large numbers after completing the minimum requirements. Immigration experts acknowledged many never intended to stay and were merely taking advantage of Canada’s traditional generosity with its citizenship.

The five-year rule may be an inconvenience for Sutherland, who comes across as far less arrogant and self-important than fellow Canadian Neil Young, who prefers jetting into the country just long enough to demand Alberta cripple its economy by getting out of the oil business, before jetting back to California. But both are Canadian the same way Mike Duffy is from Prince Edward Island: it might be where they came from, but it’s not where they live. Even Canada’s Senate now understands that difference.

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

And Professor Orwin making a similar point about the link between residency and voting:

Yes, the Charter of Rights proclaims voting a basic right of citizenship. But how far does that right extend? As we’ve already seen, only to the boundaries of one’s riding of primary residence. This is an essential feature of our system. It’s the sacred democratic right of Fort McMurrayites (and conversely of downtown Torontonians) that outsiders not be permitted to vote in their riding. Our representative must be ours, and no one else’s. So while Canadian citizenship may be a necessary condition of voting in a given election, it’s obviously not a sufficient one. This is why it’s mistaken to claim that by denying an expatriate the vote, we are stripping her of anything enjoyed by other Canadians. Rather it’s that by permitting her to vote the current law grants her a right denied to other Canadians. Yes, for five years and no more, but she should be grateful for those years, recognizing (having read this column) just what an anomaly she enjoys.

It’s not just in granting five years of electoral amnesty that the present law is quite generous. It is also so in offering expatriates a varied menu of possible electoral residences. They may choose their last previous Canadian address; but they also enjoy other options equally ungrounded in reality. Let’s face it, once Ms. Choi has decided to live abroad, it is the merest fiction to deem her still resident in my riding. As the years pass this fiction grows ever more glaring, and my neighbours and I increasingly testy. Who is this annoying phantom who pretends to live in our riding and insists on voting there? What does she know or care of our local concerns?

 If I can’t vote in your riding, why should expats vote in mine? 

Contrasting Commentary: Barbara Kay vs Clifford Orwin and Marnie Soupcoff on the Niqab and Citizenship Ceremonies

Barbara Kay supporting the Government:

But Ms Bakht’s specious parallel has the virtue that it can be turned against its perpetrator. If a woman were to turn up at her citizenship swearing-in ceremony in a bikini, would she be allowed to? I think not. And rightly so. Bikinis on a beach are one thing – in a solemn ceremony quite another. Indecency swings both ways. Face cover is also indecent in certain situations, such as the swearing-in of a woman to citizenship in a democratic country based on, amongst other principles, gender equality. (I consider the niqab indecent in all getting and giving of government services. If the federal government would pass a law requiring the face be uncovered in these areas, as Quebec soon will, Canadians would approve en masse.)

Perhaps Ms Ishaq might give some thought to the reality that thousands upon thousands of Pakistani people wish to become citizens of Canada, but one does not see Canadians flocking to Pakistan to live. There are reasons for that. One of those reasons is that women here are equal to men, and nobody can tell a woman here that she must cover her face. One might think that Ms Ishaq would wish to honour that right, on behalf of her sisters who are forced to wear the niqab, by taking hers off for the five minutes it will take to accept the gift of great value our government wishes to confer on her.

Barbara Kay: Zunera Ishaq does a disservice to women forced to wear the veil

Marnie Soupcoff opposing:

Is the government’s quarrel with the niqab is that it represents a patriarchal practice it believes diminishes women’s autonomy and, ultimately, safety?

That seems to be what Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander was getting at when he said while commenting on the case, “We also are a government, and I think a people, that is concerned about protecting women from violence, protecting women from human smuggling, protecting women from barbaric practices like polygamy, genital mutilation, honour killings.”

Quite apart from the dramatic leap from a legal piece of clothing to the commission of major crimes, which seems to lack some clear thinking on causation vs. correlation, Mr. Alexander is treading on dangerous ground, at least if he plans to be consistent and even-handed.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish tradition has married women wear wigs or otherwise cover their hair in public, and all women wear long sleeves and skirts below the knees, to maintain their modesty and de-emphasize their sexual attractiveness to anyone but their husbands.

The rules about women’s dress are but one expression of the tradition’s emphasis on female purity and deference, which also includes a wife’s duty to always accept her husband’s sexual advances on his terms.

In Israel, concerns about sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community are significant, and rabbis are accused of participating in cover-ups.

So shouldn’t Mr. Alexander and Mr. Harper also be addressing the offensiveness of the wigs and long skirts being worn by Orthodox women taking their citizenship oaths? And if they’re not, does that mean they’re endorsing the antiquated sexist idea that a woman who shows a stranger man her elbows is engaging in brazen sexual temptation?

Of course the answer is no. No, they shouldn’t, and no, it doesn’t.

Concerns about what cultural, religious and social signals are being sent by an individual’s choice in clothing should have no place in lawmakers’ minds, or at least not in their actions.

The very beauty of Canadian citizenship is that it comes with the freedom to choose your own way and your own life. Does the majority of society have to agree with your choice, whether it be to don a nun’s habit or a Wiccan pentagram necklace?

The obvious answer again is no, so long as you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s freedom with your decision. And apologies to Mr. Harper and Mr. Alexander, but their freedom not to be offended doesn’t count.

Marni Soupcoff: Tories vs. religious freedom

Along with a former prof of mine, Clifford Orwin:

You may ask whether Islam truly requires that a woman wear the niqab. This is none of a liberal state’s business; it is for Muslims to decide for themselves. But they won’t agree, and even if most did, liberal democracy rejects the imposition of religious authority. So this is nobody’s call but Ms. Ishaq’s. Like every citizen, she must be free to practise her religion not as we see fit, but as she does. This isn’t a question of “accommodation” or “diversity” or any such currently fashionable lingo: It’s a requirement of religious freedom, one of the first and most basic of liberal democratic principles.

The worst thing about Mr. Harper’s position is its implication that Ms. Ishaq can’t be a good Canadian unless she discards a practice she regards as incumbent on her as a Muslim and which is entirely harmless to others. I’m not about to claim that the biggest problem facing Canadian society is Islamophobia. (In fact, it has shown itself remarkably free of such attitudes.) The threat of Islamist terror poses a much bigger problem to Canada, as to other liberal democracies. But aggravating the lesser problem in no way helps to solve this greater problem. We shouldn’t hand devout Muslims legitimate (and wholly gratuitous) grievances. Nor (it should go without saying) should we practise demagoguery at their expense.

 Stephen Harper’s veiled attack on religious freedom 

Australia: Multicultural melting pot threatened by hardliners

More on Australian policy debates. Peter Kurti is right; advocates of hard or deep multiculturalism undermine support for multiculturalism, given “anything goes” cultural tolerance, rather than placing this in a rule of law and human rights context with limits. He goes a bit too far in his views of the role of the state; there is place for the state to encourage soft multiculturalism, including respect for religious freedom, but in balance with other rights.

A more sophisticated discussion can be found in Clifford Orwin’s 2009 article, Shallow diversity — our national muddle:

In fact, we Canadians do have a way of life. It’s called liberal democracy. It offers us unprecedented freedom to live as we wish and, in this sense, it does indeed “foster diversity.” It does so, however, only on condition of a far more significant underlying unity.

As long as you observe prevailing liberal democratic norms on all fundamental social questions, you’re free in merely secondary matters to continue in the ways of your ancestors.

As to the question of whether Australia needs a multiculturalism act, Canada’s multiculturalism act is more aspirational than prescriptive, leaving the heaving lifting to the courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Multiculture melting pot threatened by hardliners |