Remember Wilfrid Laurier University? It’s getting worse. In late 2017, Laurier rose to prominence as the school that subjected a 21 year old female teaching assistant, Lindsay Shepherd, to a Maoist struggle session after she displayed an excerpt of a televised debate about pronouns featuring Professor Jordan Peterson. During the inquisition her (male) faculty inquisitors inadvertently articulated a core principle of the social justice University: some topics are not “up for debate” because they create an “unsafe learning environment.”
Prof. Jonathan Haidt has argued that Universities face a mutually exclusive choice: they can pursue social justice or truth. Laurier’s Communications Studies faculty have firmly embraced social justice. But the more worrying trend is that Laurier’s administrators have too. Prof. Samuel Abrams warned in late 2018 that the ideological bent “of those overseeing collegiate life is having the biggest impact on campus culture.”
Here are a couple of recent examples of Abrams’ prophecy.
First, Laurier is undertaking an employment equity survey, because “it is important to understand the representation gaps and barriers to inclusion experienced by… equity seeking groups.” The accompanying press release states that the survey “can be updated if personal identities change.” Evidently, the University embraces self-identification for all “equity seeking groups.”
Universal self-ID is avant-garde for any social justice advocate but beggars belief for a University with the motto “truth conquers all.” Recently, sex self-identification has become extremely controversial as women realize that their spaces (e.g., sports, prisons, and rape crises centres) are open to men.
Self-identification renders the word “woman” meaningless. Efforts to address women’s issues like the wage gap are impossible with self-identification, since men can self-select into the compensation. But to extend self-ID to all “equity seeking groups” is further madness. Remember Rachel Dolezal who self-identified as black? Or, Emile Ratelband, the 69 year old Dutch man, who self-identified as being 49 years old? Apparently, Laurier would support both claims. Ironically, self-identification renders the equity survey’s results meaningless.
The second example is more troubling. In August, the University announced $1.3M in federal funding to support women entrepreneurs. Several programs will be launched to support female entrepreneurs in non-tech and social ventures, and to support Indigenous women starting businesses in Indigenous culture. So many red flags. Why would the program preclude tech businesses in the middle of the Waterloo-Toronto tech corridor? But the really troubling part is that males need not apply. Laurier and the federal government are actively discriminating against individuals based on an immutable characteristic: sex.
In Canada, sexist discrimination is legal, but that doesn’t make it right. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC), organizations can develop “special programs” to help disadvantaged groups. Section 14 of the code ensures that special programs cannot be challenged by people who do not face the same disadvantage. So, men cannot legally challenge the female-only entrepreneurship program because it discriminates against them. The Canadian Bill of Rights declares “the right of the individual to equality before the law.” The OHRC renders that right meaningless. Young men do not have the right to be treated equally.
While discrimination is wrong under the Judeo-Christian moral framework, it is fine under the social justice moral framework. As the Laurier Employment Equity web page states: “equity is a remedy for past discrimination.” So, as a remedy, Laurier is going to harm young, male entrepreneurship students (by excluding them) because of the sins of their fathers. Two wrongs make a right, apparently. That is a corrupt moral arithmetic and no good will come of it.
The administration has drunk so deeply from the social justice well that it doesn’t see the logical contradictions of its own actions. To justify its equity survey, Laurier worries about barriers to inclusion. But its women’s entrepreneurship programs creates a barrier for male students.
Laurier tries to embrace two social justice causes: under-representation in entrepreneurship and self-identification. But the latter undermines the former. Men can self-identify as women and settler women as indigenous. Intersectional policies are meaningless in a world with self-identification.
Instead of discriminating, Laurier should offer a program open to all students of entrepreneurship regardless of sex or indigenous status. We should embrace Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that entrepreneurship proposals should not be judged by the sex of the founder, but by the content of their business plan.