Kathleen Lowery, an academic at the University of Alberta, has been fired from her role as associate chair of undergraduate programs in the Department of Anthropology for expressing gender-critical feminist ideas, according to the Centre for Free Expression.
It was in March that Lowrey was asked to resign from her position. She was told that the reasons for this were that the learning environment she created was "unsafe" for students. This was as per the University, "on the basis that one or more students had gone to the University’s Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights and the Dean of Students, André Costopolous, to complain about her without filing formal complaints."
Her employer empowered students to damage their teacher's career and livelihood. It is the type of power which todays' students are accustomed to wielding, much as the Red Guards routinely punished their teachers for "wrong thinking" during the Cultural Revolution.
Universities were once known as hives of critical thinking, intellectual engagement, and the advancement of knowledge. However, as postmodern ideas took root, certain types of knowledge have become verboten. One of the most taboo subjects is biological sex, and the social impact of being born female or male.
The trend seems to have started at Evergreen College, a "progressive" liberal arts school in Washington State. From there, it spread like a virus to college campuses across the US, crossing the border to Canada, and jumping the Atlantic to the UK.
The University of Alberta justified its decision on the basis that a student, or students, informally complained to its Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights that Lowery made the learning environment feel "unsafe" for them by voicing gender critical feminist ideas.
As a teacher of young people with curious minds, Lowery said her method is to summarize her views on the first day of any course about sex or gender, along with a declaration that students are not required to agree with her. She took this approach to her 2020 course on the "Anthropology of Women."
It is difficult to imagine how a teacher could communicate knowledge on that topic without reference to biological sex, as opposed to the relatively recent academic trend of gender identity. However, Lowery's employers felt that her reference to the importance of biological sex broke with orthodoxy to such an unacceptable degree that she had to go.
The University did not give any reasons for dismissal, other than the fact an informal complaint had been received. They said that "it is not in the best interests of the students or the University" for Lowery to continue in her post. In effect, an institution of learning claims it is "protecting" its anthropology students from confronting the reality, and importance, of biological sex, because the students don’t want to have to think about it.
For a sense of just how bizarre and unrealistic it is for a any university to prevent such teaching, imagine a science professor being sacked for asserting that an understanding of the laws of Newtonian physics is necessary to study the mechanics of objects. You can't teach anything useful without the material, factual foundations in place.
It is remarkable how much power the students now have—over female teachers, at least. All they need to do is whisper the magic word "transphobia" behind closed doors for the institution to show her the door.
Clearly, ideological purity, conformity of thought, instilling orthodoxy and—crucially - disciplining difficult women - are more important than factual teaching for the University of Alberta. Instead of a place to learn about all manner of different ideas, debate and critique them to arrive at something approaching the truth, a University is now remade as a "safe space" where students are to be cosseted by teachers chanting the liturgy of gender.
What parents paying tuition fees and accommodation for their offspring think about the quality of humanities education available at the University of Alberta remains to be seen.
The dictum "Go Woke, Go Broke" certainly seems to apply to Evergreen College, which saw enrollment drop following the students' de facto takeover of the institution. Alberta sacked Lowrey out of concern that students would avoid the anthropology department, but perhaps they should be more concerned about the effect of this negative publicity on parental appetite to pay for higher education there.
Either way, it shows that the marketization of universities is incompatible with academic values.
As a parent myself, this decision to sack a feminist academic does not inspire confidence and trust but their opposite. It appears that students with mental health issues, or misogyny issues, or both, are running the show, rather than capable adults with a commitment to academic values.
Academic freedom is under threat under the guise of "protecting" minorities, particularly young people steeped in the belief system of gender ideology. For them, even to speak of the reality of sex is a form of "harm."
Of course, crying because you've been exposed to an idea which doesn't sit neatly with your current world view is a way to shut down debate, discussion and dissent. When deployed against heterodox academics—and it should not be considered heterodox to know that sex is real—it is cry-bullying, and it is now endemic within academia in the West.
Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology, publicly opposed the compelled speech element of Bill C-16 without losing his job. In fact, he tallied his battle with preferred pronouns into a stand-alone media and publishing career. Could it be that his sex makes him a higher-caste member of the academic community than Lowery, whose femaleness is inescapable?
There is a pattern emerging whereby the capture of institutions of learning by gender ideology - including the funding which comes from pharmaceutical companies, and charitable trusts connected to them - culminates in the bullying, harassment or sacking of gender-critical women. Instead of backing them up, the institution folds at the first whiff of student grumblings. It is a short cut to declaring their own conformity with demands of their new paymasters—both funders and students.
In England, the universities at which Professors Kathleen Stock and Rosa Freedman teach backed them in the face of harassment by gender ideologues. However, others—such as Professor Selina Todd—were not supported to the same extent. Women subject to accusations of gender heresy have been deplatformed from even guest speaking slots at universities.
The University of Alberta should have backed up a woman who was simply doing her job. Unfortunately, there is emergent pattern of thoughtful women being sacked for doing their jobs. Consider Maya Forstater, who was sacked by the Think Tank she worked for on the grounds that she initiated a conversation about the difference between sex and gender, and the reasons why sex matters in international development. Her feminist test case is currently on appeal.
Such is the power of the student as consumer, in an age of intense conformity of thought within liberal institutions. All it takes is hearsay from one or two students for the usual rules of employment disputes to fall away: no formal complaints process, no transparency regarding the nature of the accusations made, no disciplinary process.
Under the banner of "progressivism," we have regressed to a stage where careers and livelihoods can be destroyed behind closed doors, where any deviation from orthodoxy is framed as a damnable heresy, where matters of individual conscience and freedom of thought and expression fall by the wayside.
All of this shows us just how fragile gender ideology is, if one woman teaching an anthropology course can be made out as public enemy number one just because she knows sex is real, and that it matters.
Welcome to the new Dark Ages where irrational dogma dominates our universities, even though dogma is supposedly antithetical to the academic mission.