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Much Ado About Free Speech: A Canadian Professor Responds

Quillette contributors have done an admirable job of documenting recent cases in which free expression is no longer truly free at institutions of higher education, including in such articles as “The Free Speech Crisis on Campus Is Worse than People Think,” and “The Hysterical Campus.” But while these articles present the problem as international, they typically rely on examples sourced almost exclusively to the United States.

I am a psychology professor at a large, public Ontario school, the University of Guelph, where students can choose from 40 different majors, most of which will allow enrollees to earn a bachelor’s degree without ever once hearing the word “intersectionality.” Yet based on what Canadians see in the media—not just Quillette, but also local sources—they’d be forgiven for thinking that we academics spend most of our time gazing at our navels, memorizing the latest politically correct jargon, and rooting out hate speech.

I have been teaching at my university for almost 20 years, yet I cannot recall a single instance in which my students protested the expression of an offensive idea. Nor has an administrator ever told me what I can and cannot say. The most newsworthy local example occurred at a neighboring institution, Wilfrid Laurier University, where teaching assistant Linsday Shepherd was famously reprimanded (and then exonerated) for showing a Jordan Peterson video to her students. Yet the public has become so convinced that these episodes are epidemic that Doug Ford, Ontario’s new premier (and brother to the late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford) has threatened to withhold funding from universities that fail to enforce free-speech policies.

As an educator, I am not one to walk on eggshells with my students, so it is possible that Ford’s new rules might save my bacon someday. But my experience suggests they probably are unnecessary so long as academics exercise a baseline of common sense and decency.

A few years ago, I put together a reading list for students (mostly women) to discuss in small groups. The overarching theme was that women often disagree on the question of what constitutes feminist “progress.” Should female U.S. voters have supported Bernie Sanders, because his policies were seen as more progressive on women’s issues; or Hillary Clinton, because she is a woman? Should women prefer employee benefits that cover the cost of egg freezing, so that they can delay motherhood while building their careers—or seek to recoup the cost of extended maternity leave, so they can take time off to spend with their children when the time is right? Has the sexual revolution helped women, who can now pursue their sexuality in a way that is detached from maternal obligations and even romantic commitments—or has it primarily worked to the advantage of men, who now have more access to sex with no strings?

Most readers would probably agree that there is nothing particularly controversial here. And to my knowledge, these readings inspired no ire among my students. However, there was another reading that, in hindsight, I regret having assigned, and which I have removed from the reading list for future classes.

It was a short excerpt of a 1994 Harper’s essay by David Foster Wallace about his visit to the Illinois State Fair. Wallace was accompanied to that fair by an old high school acquaintance, dubbed “Native Companion,” who was very different from the cosmopolitan women he had met since leaving Illinois years earlier. The assigned excerpt recounted Native Companion’s ride on the Zipper, “a kind of Ferris wheel on amphetamines,” with caged cars that could rotate 360 degrees. The “carnies” operating it deliberately stopped the ride while her car was upside-down—knowing that gravity would make her dress fall up—so they could “ogle her nethers.” Afterwards, Wallace was gobsmacked by her reaction, or lack thereof, to the carnies: “So if I noticed or didn’t, why does it have to be my deal? What, because there’s assholes in the world I don’t get to ride the Zipper?” (For clarity, the word “Native,” as Foster used it, related to Illinois residency, not Native American identity.)

Wallace added an analysis that would sound familiar to today’s culture warriors: “The core value informing a kind of eroto-willed political stoicism on your part is your prototypically Midwestern appreciation of fun—whereas on the East Coast, eroto-political indignation is the fun. In New York a woman who’d been hung upside down and ogled would get a whole lot of other women together and there’d be this frenzy of eroto-political indignation. They’d confront the guy. File an injunction. The management would find themselves litigating—violation of a woman’s right to non-harassed fun. I’m telling you. Personal and political fun merge somewhere just east of Cleveland, for women.”

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. This spineless professor—i.e., me—cravenly quashed a perfectly legitimate, harmless, even funny and incisive, anthropological analysis of political correctness written a quarter century ago. Perhaps, your suspicion goes, I was worried that my students might find the Zipper episode “triggering.” After all, social-justice enthusiasts are notorious for ignoring historical context and imposing today’s values on yesterday’s words and actions. Or perhaps you might suspect that I was worried that feminists would object to the whole idea of a male professor assigning a reading about feminism by a male author, especially one who is known to have had unhealthy relationships with women. But you would be wrong on both counts.

To understand my motives for removing the reading, you first have to understand my motives for assigning it in the first place. The star of the piece, in my mind, was Native Companion rather than David Foster Wallace. It seemed to me that she handled the “asshole” carnies in a very effective way. She did as she pleased, and did not give them the satisfaction of preventing her from having fun. I admired her, and I thought that she could serve as a source of inspiration to my female students. I was worried, frankly, that their only role models were of (in Wallace’s words) the “eroto-political indignation” variety, and so I wanted them to see that there were other ways to handle assholes, who cannot always be avoided.

But then I started talking to my female students. Most of these conversations were initiated by me, but at least one student “confronted” me about her objections to the reading. Their perspectives were informed by their personal experiences with men, as well as the experiences of other women they knew. Student became teacher and teacher became student.

I learned that no two women are alike in terms of how they’ll respond to an encounter with a man. One might be traumatized by something that seems fairly benign to an outside observer, while another might be comparatively unscathed (or at least appear to be) by something unequivocally horrific. What is important is that the survivor not be judged for her reaction. And I learned that by offering up Native Companion’s reaction as an implicit ideal, I was suggesting that there was something wrong with other types of reaction. You are welcome to disagree with this logic, but I do not, and that is why I no longer assign the reading.

I am also happy to report that this process never resembled the type of free speech confrontation that looms large in the mind of the public. It was calm and respectful and deliberative rather than charged and reactionary. No one went over my head and filed a complaint with my superiors or went to the press. No one shouted me down. The student who confronted me was not looking for a fight, although I think she was prepared for me to be defensive. When I instead gave signs that this was an opportunity for a teaching moment, she obliged with grace and respect.

It is reasonable to wonder whether this anecdote is any more meaningful than the other anecdotes that get reported, suggesting a crisis on campus. But you should know that I am not a particularly PC guy; and yet this is the only incident I have experienced in two decades of teaching, which has included interactions with tens of thousands of students.

Every year, I teach an introductory psychology course to groups of 600 students. One of the sections covers evolutionary psychology, which tends to emphasize biological sex over gender identity, and focuses closely on biological differences between males and females. You could easily see how this perspective would fly in the face of material that students might learn in one of their humanities courses. But not once have I had a student openly object to me teaching this material. The reason, I think, is that I teach controversial topics in a way that comes across as food for thought rather than dogma: There are these scientists who apply a biological approach to understanding human behaviour. They call themselves evolutionary psychologists. You might find their methods and conclusions appealing. Let me know if you want to learn more.

Indeed, I sometimes wish that students were more confrontational. At least then I would know that they were engaged by my lectures. These days, this is a common complaint among professors, who must compete for attention against iPhones during class. You can imagine how depressing it is when students who are considering your course are far more likely to ask “How many exams will there be?” than “What topics will be covered?”

Provocation is an effective way to get people to pay attention. And I wonder sometimes whether the only reason I originally assigned the Wallace essay was to indulge some subconscious urge to stir my students from their usual passivity.

Dan Meegan (@DanMeeganJr) is associate professor of psychology at the University of Guelph, and the author of America the Fair: Using Brain Science to Create a More Just Nation, forthcoming in 2019 from Cornell University Press.




  1. An interesting read. I think the author is correct that people outside the academy tend to overestimate how many students are snowflakes who require trigger warnings, but the political correctness problem is real and probably a lot worse at other institutions. Guelph, where the author teaches, is a lot more like Cleveland than New York. If he’d assigned the DFW reading in a big city like Toronto or Montreal, there’s a much higher chance that he’d be denounced in the school newspaper and face an inquisition from the gender studies department. (Guelph doesn’t even have a gender studies dept., having cut it years ago due to lack of demand.) I say this with first-hand knowledge of both the Guelph (I graduated with a B.A. from there in ’03) and what goes down in the big city universities (covered them for Maclean’s magazine for four years).

    • Tom Nunn says

      A gloss on evolutionary psychology to a snoozing lecture hall?

      You eggshell stomping rebel you.

      What was the point of this article anyway? I couldn’t find it… Oh! Here it is: we just all need to be more reasonable and and everything will be fine.

      The Quillette motto.

      • Clam and Corrected says

        “What was the point of this article anyway?”

        How about: “It’s not happening here to me, so it’s not a big deal.”

        The motto of the German public, circa 1939.

        • The Wolf(ington) says

          How about: “It’s not happening here to me, so it’s not a big deal.”

          @Clam and Corrected
          I think you have hit the nail square more than you realize.

          I would put it in different terms: I think the author may be suffering from some level of narcissistic personality disorder.

          The author knows that professors and students are being harassed, vandalized, intimidated, fired, un-published, and made miserable over these matters of heterodox free speech; but to him, it’s “nothing” (per the title).

          This sort of dismissal of others’ suffering to focus on himself and his own particular experiences is textbook. He only cares if, as he says, “his bacon is threatened.”

          Quillette, I suspect you published a rather sick person here. Your choice, but I think it lowers your credibility.

          • Yes and his insisting that it isn’t happening in Canada is surprising, since have reported on multiple such acts happening in Canadian universities. Further, England and most of Western Europe have actually codified the grievance culture into law. Wasn’t Trudeau just criticized for signing a controversial law that may end up in books being banned?

        • JWatts says

          More accurately: “It’s not happening here to me, sure it happened at another nearby university, but hey that’s across town so it’s not a big deal.”

          At that point the author pretty much undermined his entire thesis.

      • Yurgis V. says

        “What was the point of this article anyway? I couldn’t find it… ”

        If we work on this as a team, I’m sure we can find (or manufacture) a point in there someplace.

        I cast my pottery shard for: “My psychology degree gave me absolutely no grasp of human nature, a talent for the obvious, and a mighty suit of denial.”

        Exhibit A:

        “But my experience suggests they probably are unnecessary so long as academics exercise a baseline of common sense and decency.”

        This made me howl with laughter. There’s an expression in Canada: “Easier said than done, eh?”

        For one straight white professor’s baseline of decency is another shrieking far-Left gender-queer intersectional feminist activist’s violent hate speech.

        Don’t try to snow me, author. I wasn’t born last week.

        • Michael Joseph says

          Maybe he’s right. Maybe on a grand scale all the poor he-men and white supremacists aren’t really getting jacked. Activists in the Academy fought for decades to talk about the truth and for equal treatment. It’s funny how quickly brigands want to enshrine free speech with regulation as soon as they feel a little put out.

          • says

            “Maybe he’s right. Maybe on a grand scale all the poor he-men and white supremacists aren’t really getting jacked. Activists in the Academy fought for decades to talk about the truth and for equal treatment. It’s funny how quickly brigands want to enshrine free speech with regulation as soon as they feel a little put out.”


            All the more so, since you can presumably operate a computer with the same brain.


      • Suddenly Suzanne says

        @Tom: “You eggshell stomping rebel you.”

        Yes, a far cry from presenting or publishing work related to controversial subjects like genetics as it relates to IQ or race, male-female differences, or sudden-onset gender dysphoria; or declaring, as Brett Weinstein did, that he would not be excluded from campus because of his race.

        I found it off-putting that the author equated “free speech” with “nothing” in his title. I don’t think he would be quite so flippant nor relaxed were he sailing closer to the wind in his own work.

        A friend in the hard sciences just told me an hour ago that, as he applies for professorships elsewhere, he is required to pen a statement of inclusion and diversity every time. In sum, he must promise that he will pursue scientific objectivity, as long as it doesn’t interfere with manufacturing the correct number of blacks and women in engineering. In that case, standards and objectivity vanish.

        He has been told in no uncertain terms: “If you are overseeing a woman or minority grad student, and that person cannot hack it, just write the work for them and move them through. We cannot be seen flunking the Anointed, because then we’ll lose funding.”

        What do you think would happen if he were to say something decent and common-sensical like, “With respect, I am NOT doing my student’s work for her, and I refuse to declare in writing preferential treatment based on skin color or sex.” Ka …. BOOOOM.

        Pace whatever happens at Cow College, Ontario, there is something very, very wrong with all this.

        • Gilles St-Gilles says


          I am left speechless by the testimony of your friend. But if true – and I honestly have trouble accepting that it is completely true, then this is absolutely insane and has to be brought to light and fought back against. Can you elaborate on it? Provide any sort of details, names of colleges and departments?

          • Suddenly Suzanne says

            @Gilles St-Gilles,

            I’m not quite sure I’m addressing what you’re asking for:

            The part about penning a commitment letter to diversity and inclusion as a requirement to gain or progress in employment is becoming standard practice in universities all over the US, a kind of “swearing loyalty to the party.” I believe all professors at most UCs have to do it now, as well as many others. It’s no secret. You can Google a lot more:


            I cannot provide you much detail on my friend, since I am talking about someone else without his consent, and he could get hurt. But he works in engineering sciences at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, as a post-doc researcher and adviser.

            The funding part is not hidden either, and the economics of the situation and behavior flowing from it shouldn’t be hard for you to believe, though I cannot produce emails attesting to the fact, since few are dumb enough to put it in writing:

            The administration is harassing all departments that have too many white/asian peeners (ALL of them, in the hard sciences), threatening them explicitly with loss of resources if they don’t find a way to change their numbers and bring about the feminine-balanced, rainbow utopia that only their implicit sexism and racism is stopping from unfolding in structural engineering.

            The departments are in high gear, searching under every rock to find minorities and women to join them. The departments are offering to pay their entire way, as well as some of their undergraduate tuition, if they’ll enlist. They are bending over backwards.

            The problem, as my friend describes it, is that these minority and women candidates JUST DON’T EXIST. They just aren’t interested, even with a friction-free ride. The numbers support him. Minority men in particular seem to go overwhelming for doctorates in “education” or the softy-sciences and critical theory (a “doctorate in being yourself”). Women go to law school, medical school, or the softy-sciences, biology being somewhat the exception. In many areas of hard science and engineering, for example, there were ZERO black PhDs graduated in the last few years nationwide.

            So with no blood to squeeze from the stone, what do you think happens when a woman or minority graduate student they DO have is cratering? What do you think the department heads say when my friend reports, “This person just isn’t able to do the work. He/she is not cut out for structural engineering”?

            They take my friend aside and say in low tones: “If we cut him/her loose, not only will we be feeding the narrative that the hard sciences are hostile to people of the non-peener and darker complexioned variety; but we will get nasty letters from On High and maybe lose our money. FIX IT. MAKE IT WORK.” So what else can he do? He ends up ghostwriting their work: “Hey! Look what you thought up!”

            Yes, it’s insane, and the costs are real, and not just in the academy.

            Do you remember that collision between a Navy ship and a container ship a while back, in which a bunch of sailors were killed? My brother is an officer in the US Navy. He read the reports on that.

            The Navy didn’t publicize the cause (to no one’s surprise), but it was clear on investigation: the captain of the Navy ship was told, “Give female officers command experience so they can promote when the time comes for us to promote them … which will be as fast as possible. If not enough women are given command experience so we can promote them and show a statistically more female Navy, we will revoke YOUR command. The biggest thing you will sail is a desk.”

            So what did the captain do? Same thing as my friend’s department. He threw a female officer into command of the bridge who was EXPLICITLY not yet qualified or competent, so that he wouldn’t be punished himself. She screwed up, hit the container ship, and a dozen or so sailors were killed. Imagine living with that.

            By my brother’s report, this is happening all over the military: commanders are given affirmative promotion goals as part of their OWN promotion criteria: “Produce the correct number of minority/women officers in the pipeline, or you’re going nowhere.” My brother had a black woman in front of him for NINE infractions against standards in a single period (two would have had a white man packing his bags). He brought her to Captain’s Mast, and The Powers said, “We’ll give her a few more chances.”

            It’s not hard to imagine how this compromise on competence will end, when the people who build the bridges and aim the missiles are cutting standards for political correctness. As Scott Adams (“Dilbert”) has said, many of the incompetent will be made managers, so that they exist statistically as minorities/women on the payroll but don’t have to do any of the math or steering of vessels. They will just make the real engineers’ and vessel captains’ work harder with their ignorance. But some of them will screw up royally, and you or I may be on the airliner that falls out of the sky. Fun times.

      • Sean S says

        The author is talking his experience in University of Guelph, however, from what I can tell, In Canadian Universities, this is a rare case. Just look at McMaster, Toronto, Queens, UBC, Ottawa…

      • Not Steve or Egbert says

        “What was the point of this article anyway?”

        Challenge ACCEPTED! The author’s point was simple: MEEEEEE!

        “My experience is the exception that proves the rule. But … the rule is just Americans, a graduate student over there, maybe a few others having their professional lives ruined. No need to talk about the rule and focus on these losers. They’ll work it out. Instead, *I* am going to tell you a story about ME, an excruciatingly boring yarn full of jargon about how *I* succeeded in being reasonable and open minded toward a student who supplicated ME regarding a short story which *I* chose but then chose to unchoose, in a stunning act of sensibleness and empathy by ME. You’re going to forget all about whether free expression is being quietly smothered in its bed, and focus on ME, which is where you should be focusing.”

        I’d lay money the author would score quite high on a test of narcissistic traits.

    • Guelph might not be in a big city, but most folks there come from the GTA or Ottawa – it’s less Cleveland and more Long Island. I think the difference is that Guelph isn’t a top tier institution/isn’t NCAA, and as such, isn’t a big media target, and as such, there isn’t the social payoff for grandstanding that there would be at a more prestigious University or one directly in a big downtown core.

      Further, I’d say the general student body isn’t jammed with the kind of folks predisposed to grandstanding, both because its loose admissions (striving for attention is still striving) and because they’ve chosen to live in a farming community away from media lights.

      I’m not trying to rip Guelph, I love it. But it’s like thousands of other non-elite companies or universities that don’t set the pace for the broader culture. If a man burps too close to a woman at Harvard, she knows the NYT will be there as soon as she clicks send, if she chooses too. At Guelph, not so much. It’s no different than the employees grandstanding at Google – they get attention. You won’t see folks from Joe’s Autobody walking out to protest…because no one cares.

      • Michael Joseph says

        A couple of university presidents did a study ten or fifteen years ago about the effectiveness of types of universities. They wanted to find out if you got your money’s worth for your $200,000 at an elites school vs $40,000 at a state school. They found that the type or place of higher education chosen by the average student made no difference in later career success. The most important factors for professional success were personal dedication and drive. For average students, a degree from a state U was no less valuable to professional success than an elite education. My feeling is that when it comes to cultural impact, the same is probably true. We might read about the going’s on at elite schools but average schools, public and private, are where the culture evolves.

    • A personal anecdote as we see in this article is invalid when the legal, regulatory, and burocratic system allows, or is specifically intended to encourage, censorship, abuse, and actual career harm of individuals who challenge the dominant paradigm or culture.

      Once the system has these built in deffects, the end point can easily be an Orwellian society such as I experienced when I grew up in Cuba under the Castro dictatorship. “Western society” is gradually being driven towards repression and abuses of individual freedom by a well crafted campaign, by a group which knows no limits, meaning they will never stop increasing the degree of repression and abuse unless they are pushed back.

      In this world there’s no such thing as static balance, it’s not possible to merely try to preserve a free society as it is, because it will inevitably be undermined by groups trying to impose autocracy and dictatorship. Societies need to be tweaked and strengthened to avoid what unfortunately is happening in recent decades. And this is a war we can easily lose.

  2. “I learned that no two women are alike in terms of how they’ll respond to an encounter with a man…. What is important is that the survivor not be judged for her reaction.”

    I suspect there are many women who have ‘survived’ encounters with men. I imagine survival occurs in the vast majority of cases.

    • R Henry says

      I too find the word “survivor,” in this context, to be over the top.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Yes, the author isn’t PC but he does slip there and use the language of PC.

        • Saw file says

          @ P. fr Oz..
          Yes….but it’s good to hear that the PC mob is marginalized, postsecondary. I do know this is true.

          But..” I learned that no two women are alike in terms of how they’ll respond to an encounter with a man. One might be traumatized by something that seems fairly benign to an outside observer, while another might be comparatively unscathed (or at least appear to be) by something unequivocally horrific. What is important is that the survivor not be judged for her reaction. And I learned that by offering up Native Companion’s reaction as an implicit ideal, I was suggesting that there was something wrong with other types of reaction. You are welcome to disagree with this logic, but I do not, and that is why I no longer assign the reading.”,
          Is telling.
          A switch of the pronouns..hmmm,..

      • MagnusMino says

        The use of the term “survivor” without the prefix of “alleged” in front of it is inherently prejudicial against men. It presupposes we are all guilty, as a group, merely by virtue of having been born with a penis. The word survivor assumes any woman accusing a man of something has actually been victimized. Establishing that is what trials are for! Let alone been subjected to something life-threatening enough to consider you to have survived something. It’s an Orwellian abuse of the English Language, these hyperbolic qualifiers thrown around without any proof.

        What’s dumb about the ultra-left these days, is that removing the presumption of innocence for men generally, specifically ends up hurting black men the most. And always has: DNA evidence has overturned more false rape convictions than all other types of crimes combined, and many of those are black men, languishing in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The history of the US is replete with black men being falsely accused of raping white women, who would use it for all kinds of reasons and instantly engender sympathy and being taken seriously. It’s a trump card that gets them out of anything, really.

        If you ask me, women who falsely accuse men of sexual assault should get the same prison sentence that men get if they were convicted. This is what happens in China with murder. If you falsely accuse someone of murder, and they find out, you are dead. They hang false murder accusers the same way they hang actual murderers. Add a serious penalty against false accusations for women and many of these “charges” will disappear. Rape and sexual assault are serious things, and it’s being thrown around way too lightly these days with the MeToo movement. Many women who’ve been actually raped are 100% against this movement, as it trivializes their real suffering by commingling it with clumsy sexual encounters and awkward dates.

        • Peter from Oz says

          If you convict women of making false rape claims does that mean that every time a man is acquitted of rape his accuser is then charged with making a false allegation?
          That runs counter to our whole system of justice. An accuser is not held criminally liable unless she commits perjury or conspires to pervert the course of justice. The finding of a man innocent of rape does not mean that his accuser was guilty of perjury or conspiracy. It would take a whole new trial to establish that. So unless it’s obvious that the accuser lied with malice of forethought, then it is unlikely she will face any consequences.
          In A lot of cases it is a he said she said situation. The accused must then be given the benefit of the doubt, as he faces loss of freedom. The not guilty verdict then really means that the prosecution failed to prove its case. It doesn’t mean that the accuser falsely accused to accused.

          • ga gamba says

            If you convict women of making false rape claims does that mean that every time a man is acquitted of rape his accuser is then charged with making a false allegation?

            That’s a good question, Pete. I think the accuser would have to meet the standard of perjury, which is already a crime. Of course, for it to reach a state where an accuser is testifying falsely in court to meet the definition of perjury police and prosecutors would have to be at best horribly incompetent and at worst maliciously criminal themselves. It seems prosecutors today lack the will to prosecute those who have fabricated rape and sexual assault accusations. For example, the judge who acquitted Jian Ghomeshi called the case and the accusations “Outright deception” that were “Playing chicken with the justice system.” The judge said of one woman: “She was prepared to tell half the truth for as long as she might get away with it.“ Of a half truth: “The act of suppression of the truth will be as damaging to their credibility as a direct lie under oath.” This suggests to me a perjury case is worth examining. It won’t happen, though.

            We ought to look at the point in the process where the accusation is revealed to be false. A false report that doesn’t lead to the questioning and arrest of someone is far different from one where the accused is arrested, the police report naming the accused hits the press, charged are filed, and lawyers are hired (or provided). Too often false reports are treated as misdemeanors, and when alleged offence is a felony, to me that doesn’t fit the crime. especially when the accused is arrested and named publicly. This shatters their reputation and often destroys their financial security.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Peter from Oz

            Surely the idea is that if it is *proven* that the allegation is false? We’ve seen instances of charges of sexual misbehavior that have indeed been *proven* to have been perjury, and with malice aforethought, yet they seem to get away with it. The gold-digging extortionist lady has nothing to loose by trying it on for size.

        • ga gamba says

          I don’t disagree with your first and second paragraphs, but your third sounds like an urban legend. Do you have a source for this?

          I checked the Chinese government’s Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China website,

          There are two laws I could find addressing relevant false accusations, and in neither case does the punishment specify the accuser meet equivalent punishment faced by the falsely accused; there’s certainly no mention these are capital crimes. The maximum punishment of a false accusation causing “serious consequences” I could find is period of imprisonment is 10 years.

          Article 243. Those fabricating stories to frame others or in an attempt to subject others to criminal investigation, if the case is serious, are to be sentenced to three years or fewer in prison, or put under criminal detention or surveillance. Those causing serious consequences are to be sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.

          Workers of state organs committing crimes stipulated in the above paragraph are to be severely punished.

          Stipulations in the above two paragraphs do not apply to those who do not deliberately frame others but accuse others by mistake, or who report others’ crimes not conforming to the facts.

          Article 254. Workers of state organs who abuse their authority by retaliating against or framing accusers, petitioners, criticizers, or informants, in the name of conducting official business, are to be sentenced to two years or less in prison or put under criminal detention. If the case is serious, they are to be sentenced to two to seven years in prison.

  3. Garry A says

    This is an interesting thought that readers or Quillette would do well to stop and consider from time to time. Most readers would agree that free speech is good and necessary. Further, I think it has been demonstrated that the identity politics opposition to free speech, particularly on the left, is an existing phenomenon and ought to be opposed. What is worthwhile considering its prevalence. Apart from noting occurrences, I’m not sure that its been empirically demonstrated how much opposition to free speech there is, including within academia.
    Listening to Jordan Peterson, it would be easy to get carried away into thinking that we’re two steps from the Gulag. Stock-taking is important.

    • MagnusMino says

      I recently went back to university after a twenty year hiatus, and it’s definitely as bad as Peterson says. The SJWs are coming after math now (see “Greater Male Variability Hypothesis” paper, rejected several times due to political pressure).

      Although I find half of his opinions completely moronic – like his stance on climate change, for example, which is completely counter-factual and undermines his entire pretense of being a rational, fact-driven intellectual – I think he’s right on many other topics, like how men are suffering in western society these days – far more than women, in fact, if you look at actual stats (murder victimhood, violent crime, suicide, longevity, funding, divorce court, custody, the list is endless).

      And he’s right that the unruly mob has too much power. However, what he, and others like him, fail to notice (or maybe to mention, since it’s dangerous to his livelihood to) is how the biggest threat to free speech on campus isn’t coming from students themselves, it’s coming from outside zionist groups infiltrating, and university administrators bending over to ban BDS due to threats of funding, and banning on-campus speech calling for divestment or boycotting apartheid. These are very, very serious threats against freedom of belief and expression, when one isn’t allowed to criticize a foreign country for committing daily war crimes, with our tax dollars. They even recruit for their army on our campuses, which is literally illegal, and get away with it.

      I guess it’s a matter of perspective. To borrow a phrase from the “new left”, privilege means not having to worry when others’ rights are curtailed, if you are secure in your own never being so.

      I think men generally (and white men specifically) are constantly being told to shut up and stay quiet, and that our opinions are worth nothing due to our skin tone and genital configuration.

      However that doesn’t mean that certain segments of “white privilege” don’t exist, specifically, “zionist privilege”. They’re the biggest snowflakes on campus, who cannot tolerate even minor criticism of their beloved racist dystopia that they worship as a God unto itself, taking the form of a quasi-religious land/race fatalism.

      • Garry A says

        Sorry mate, I live in Australia, so you lost me at ‘zionist.’ Not too many Jews down here on the underside of the world.

        • Peter from Oz says


          I am fortunate to live in a part of Oz where there is a strong Jewish presence. But this only occurs in the most elite parts of Sydney.

          But you are right that all that BDS nonsense really isn’t that important down here in Oz.

      • Evander says


        Were you indulging in hyperbole when you said that, on your view, half of JBP’s views are “moronic”? Which ones and why? I can’t think of a single opinion he holds that I would call moronic.

        You believe in catastrophic man-made global warming. Fair enough.

        I remain unconvinced. Why? Because your ‘rational, fact-driven’ side fudges numbers and won’t countenance dissent. Seeing as all the Australians are piping up, let me give two local examples:

        i) CAGW-hypothesis advocates fudge numbers

        ii) … and they try to suppress heterodox scientific views. Professor Peter Ridd, a coral reef expert, was disciplined by James Cook University for the crap quality of their research, i.e. he was doing what a scientist should be doing, effectively for a lèse-majesté offense.

        People who need to fabricate numbers and silence criticism don’t strike me as being the rational, fact-driven kind.

        Speaking of silencing criticism: in 2015, when a British military officer came to speak about the operations of the IDF, a violent protest was incited by BDS-supporting academics and students. So, I don’t really buy your conspiracy theory, for which, incidentally, you provided nothing but a few impassioned assertions about some stealth infiltration of university administrations.

        • Evander says

          *… ‘for [criticising] the crap quality.’

          **’speak [at the University of Sydney] about the operations of the IDF.’

      • Ray Andrews says


        “like his stance on climate change, for example, which is completely counter-factual ”

        I think you missed his point. He is clearly not a ‘denier’ he merely points out that the notions of how to ‘fix’ the problem are often not very well thought out. And he is correct that the science, tho compelling, is not absolutely beyond question as to its predictions.

        • MagnusMino says

          Peterson’s not a climate scientist, so I’ll stick with the conclusions of 97% of actual climate scientists, which is about as high a consensus as one could possibly imagine in any scientific field.

          This might sound like an “appeal to authority” based argument, but really, that appeal is actually valid in the case of scientists who are experts in a given field, and armchair skeptics, who are against the science on ideological grounds, not empirical ones.


          “Speaking of silencing criticism: in 2015, when a British military officer came to speak about the operations of the IDF, a violent protest was incited by BDS-supporting academics and students. So, I don’t really buy your conspiracy theory, for which, incidentally, you provided nothing but a few impassioned assertions about some stealth infiltration of university administrations.”

          Plenty of universities have banned BDS activism, including McGill. It’s not a conspiracy theory, if you actually knew anything about the topic you’d realize it’s students who are being silenced by the administration, not the other way around. And besides, why should war criminals be given a soap box at western universities? The IDF commits crimes on a daily basis. Good on students for protesting them. Those people belong in jail, not accepting invitations to spread their Hasbara propaganda to whitewash their crimes. That’s obscene.

          Jewish Voice for Peace wrote this report on how zionist groups actively pressure, bribe, cajole, and threaten universities to silence dissent on I-P:

          More on this here:

          “Universities are demanding professors disavow BDS before being allowed to speak on campus”:

          There are tons and tons of examples of this. The US is a vassal state of Israel, subservient and enthralled to the extent where the Occupation cannot be discussed legally, freely. It’s obscene how ignorant many people here on Quillette are on this topic. Thankfully I’m here to set the record straight.

          The difference between BDS activists and IDF members is that one group doesn’t commit war crimes on a daily basis, and the other does. Whining about anti-war activists ruining Israeli war-crimes apology tours is a false equivalency. These people don’t even deserve to speak freely, they belong in prison.

      • Elwood says

        BDS has been shown to be a front group for Hamaas. You might recall it was elected on the basis of promises of genocide. Describing self defense against people who strap bombs to their own children as “daily war crimes” is rich.

        It is the restriction of terror front groups propaganziding that is the existential threat to us all? Mens rights activists upset about child custody norms are evil and routinely deplatformed but muslims singing songs about killing jews are good and must have free speech? This is a double standard.

        The “oppressed palestinians” have been getting weapons and funding from oil rich nations for 50 years. They have rejected countless peace deals and repeatedly elected leaders who push their own people into self destruction. This boosts international sympathy and aid money. Which is promptly spent on caviar, luxury jeeps and cash incentives for parents to strap bombs onto their children.

      • Stephanie says


        Considering the left absolutely hates Israel and Jews, and attempts to purge them from universities whenever discovered, your conflation of the two is pretty telling. You’re doing nothing but repeating the left’s own propaganda about Jewish conspiracies, and astonishingly don’t seem to notice your own incoherence.

    • Heike says

      “No enemies to the left, no friends to the right” is the watchword of the Left. They will never oppose their own.

      Opposition to free speech is strong and widely supported. If the Left can stop the Right from speaking, it will be a great victory. Attempting to lull us into a false sense of complacency is wrong.

      Jordan Peterson isn’t saying we’re two steps from the Gulag. That’s an “absurd absolute” fallacy. He’s saying that the campus Left is using the same tactics that the Soviets did. Which is true.

    • Michael Joseph says

      I find it very amusing that the people who are crying foul regarding speech had nothing to say when women and minorities were marginalized in the Academy. In the case of women, they were also victimized. I’m very much enjoying your grief. Of course it’s nothing like what went on before modern sensibilities. Whole swathes of the population were excluded from education and suffered economically. Whole swaths of the population were open to exploitation having been admitted. I applaud your insistence on free speech and equality; however, me thinks doth protest too much.

      • Evander says


        Who are you addressing?

        I’m under 30, and can’t recall any such discrimination towards women and minorities from my time on campus. Like just about everyone here I’m opposed to the suppression of views because you’ve got the wrong politics or identity. Sorry for being born too late to oppose earlier instances of it.

        “Whole swathes… whole swathes.”

        Thanks for the anaphora. Things that sucked for some people and not others happened in the past. We’ve corrected that and moved on. You were against it way back? Good for you.

        “I find it very amusing.”

        Keep basking in the sunshine of your own morality.

      • Jorge says

        “In the case of women, they were also victimized. I’m very much enjoying your grief.”

        Yes, of course. It’s always enjoyable when innocent men suffer discrimination as compensation for the victimization suffered by their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Makes sense to me.

      • JWatts says

        “I find it very amusing that the people who are crying foul regarding speech had nothing to say when women and minorities were marginalized in the Academy. ..Of course it’s nothing like what went on before modern sensibilities. ”

        Many of us weren’t alive and most weren’t old enough to attend a University at that point.

  4. Farris says

    Professor Meegan sounds like a very thoughtful and engaging teacher. However I have some reservation about his premise that the perception of freedom of expression being in jeopardy on campus is over blown.
    On Quillette a number of professors have posted rather conventional observations under pseudonyms. Admittedly their reasons for wanting anonymity are not necessarily indicative of fear of reprisals. Professor Meehan makes no mention of the current practice of Universities issuing lists of triggering innocuous words a phrases. These lists give the impression of a prior restraint on speech spoken without malice. Universities continue to provide safe spaces and issue guidelines on party costumes. These actions would appear to be limiting freedom of expression.
    Perhaps this is only a problem in the U.S. It seems odd to engage in conduct limiting freedom of expression and then simultaneously complaining about the perception created.

  5. derek says

    It would be useful to note that the university of Guelph has roots in agriculture and the natural sciences. I suspect most veterinary clinics in Canada have had someone trained in Guelph working there. As well as engineering and health sciences. I doubt you go to Guelph to become a social justice warrior.

    Likely some parents who were considering Wilfred Laurier or even Queens decided on Guelph due to their serious professionalism.

    • I find the same at American Universities that have AG departments (disclosure I myself am a professor in a US university and work in the AG department). For the most part there isn’t much in the way of SJW in either the faculty or the student body of most colleges of Agriculture in the states. Maybe it is because a good portion of students are rural and don’t find these kinds of action socially acceptable. This tends to temper even the reaction of the more urban pre-veterinary students. If you know that your peers will not support overreaction to perceived verbal agressions you are less likely to indulge in such activities.

  6. Peter from Oz says

    I congratulate Professor Meegan on a great article.
    It is refershing to know that he has not seen much political correctnessin his academic career.

    I have to say, however, that the removal of the DFW text from the reading list, seems a bit odd. It seems that it is rooted in that favourite meme of the progressives: relativism.
    Surely the point is that no text is going to give us all of the truth, but it can give us some of the truth. Even if you insist that some women would not find Native’s reaction pleasing, then it would serve them well to explain why.
    Mein Kampf is incredibly offensive, but that’s no reason not to read it and criticise it.
    The only reason to remove a book from a reading list should be that it does not teach us anything. The DFW article did teach something: i.e. that DFW thought that there were better ways to deal with bad behaviour than the politcal. That is a vital lesson that all people should learn. it is in fact a truth far more vital than many provided today in schools and colleges.

  7. RadixLecti says

    It is EXTREMELY important to teach people how to brush off “relatively benign” slights, insults and unpleasant experiences. One can and should avoid mocking them, and be supportive. But to accept that it is healthy to be repeatedly plunged into trauma because of something benign is to encourage weakness, and no sensible person does that.

  8. The professor has a point — it’s easy to lose a sense of perspective by focusing only on the latest outrages documented on your favorite anti-PC outlet.

    However, the problem is that it only takes one or two students to protest in a public way — and suddenly, in the current media and cultural climate, you’re on the wrong side of a moral panic that far too few administrators are willing to stand up to. Even if they do, you most likely *will* find yourself walking on egg shells from then on.

    Another thing I’m a bit perplexed about: I don’t know whether the reading list needed that Eggers essay, but the reasoning behind removing it doesn’t quite match the professor’s self-assessment of his open, neutral approach to teaching. Why would he use the piece in order to advocate for the woman’s point of view (as Eggers describes it)? How did he give students the impression that he was holding her up as an “implicit ideal” and thereby “judging” women’s reaction to these things? As the professor himself shows in recounting subsequent conversations with students, the essay seems like it can serve as food for thought and the basis for valuable, relevant discussion. That’s its pedagogical purpose, not to offer the students a model for their behavior.

    • Just Me says


      My reaction exactly, you wrote what I was about to, but no doubt better. Why assume assigning a reading implies approval, rather than fodder for discussion of a different view?

  9. Ray Andrews says

    Thanks Professor. This is just about the first thing I’ve read that actually succeeded in lowering my sense of alarm on this subject. Maybe from yellow-alert to harvest gold. As many above have noted, some schools are not the ones that will be chosen for Warrior indoctrination and perhaps there are more of such schools than one might think, reading the stuff we read.

  10. A lot of PC stuff has become mainstream – so I suppose its not even noticed any more.
    For example in the UK the reality is in a separation between a couple with children, the women has full rights over the children and the man very little. He’ll have to fight for meagre scraps of access to his children.

    The the school my partner works only recently a couple had split and the women as my partner, who’s the head teacher, to make sure her ex has no access. Her assumption that men have zero rights.

    Another example would be domestic violence. My partner as part of her job has to attend regular courses on the issue. In a recent days conference it was briefly mentioned that 40% victims of domestic violence are men. And that one remark was the only discussion of the issue as regards men. The rest of the day was spent on its effects on women.

    There are many shelters for female domestic violence. There are no shelters set up specifically for men.

    I could go on with many examples society’s misandry that are not just inside universities.

    It really is a woman’s world – even as people scream about the patriarchy.

  11. AK James says

    “I learned that no two women are alike in terms of how they’ll respond to an encounter with a man. One might be traumatized by something that seems fairly benign to an outside observer, while another might be comparatively unscathed (or at least appear to be) by something unequivocally horrific. What is important is that the survivor not be judged for her reaction”

    And on this basis, you chose to alter what you teach. There could have been legitimate reasons for choosing to do that, but this seems to be only due to the possibility of offending people. If the criteria for self censorship is that it should offend somebody, you can pretty much say nothing at all.

  12. Daath says

    This was reassuring to read, though maybe not as much as was intended. Political correctness, after all, wasn’t a huge problem in USA either a decade ago. Academics, beyond subjects such as English Literature and explicit grievance studies, did usually “exercise a baseline of common sense and decency”. Then, as we all know, the problem blew up. It’s hardly all-pervasive, but it’s still spreading.

    If Haidt is right, a big part of the issue is the generation of kids who’ve grown up under constant adult supervision, without the opportunity to grow stronger by resolving problems and conflicts on their own. By the time they enter college, they’re physically adults, but emotionally not that much more grown up than three-year-olds who go crying for mommy when something mean is said to them. This might be somewhat specific to USA, and make it harder for PC extremism to spread.

    Still, USA has considerable cultural power. All Western societies have their progressive activists, who aren’t stupid, and see perfectly how well these tactics have worked on US campuses. Therefore, even if the problem isn’t acute where you teach, free speech policies or at least a signed statement by faculty would probably be a good idea. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.

    • Ray Andrews says


      “they’re physically adults, but emotionally not that much more grown up than three-year-olds who go crying for mommy when something mean is said to them”

      The spoiled, privileged, selfish little girl says: “I hate you daddy, buy me a horse or I’ll hold my breath.” The spoiled, privileged. selfish 20 year old wiminz studies graduate says: “We hate you Patriarchy, give us Nobel Prizes or we’ll whine at you until you do.”

    • Stephanie says


      It’s definitely not just the US. While I was studying at the University of Alberta, a few pro-life students were protesting on campus. Someone called the police, and the campus was in hysterics all day. A couple of signs was all that was required for adults to have an embarrassing melt down. The biggest student Facebook page couldn’t have been more emotional if there had been a school shooting.

      In Canada, there just might be less conservatives for leftists to be triggered by.

  13. c young says

    Opponents of identitarian radicals should be as careful as the radicals in avoiding the ‘catastrophising’ Haidt and Lukianoff warn us against.

    But the piece should stay on the syllabus. The role of the academic is to offer alternative points of view, not to force them on their students. Presenting the Native as an ideal would be wrong. But it is right to present an alternative point of view, that many may not have ever considered. Prof Meegan’s piece deserves its place in Quillette for the exact same reason.

  14. E. Olson says

    Nice to hear that not all schools are infected by social justice disease, but such schools are missing a real marketing opportunity by not widely publicizing the fact they are not infected. Such a campaign might point out to prospective students that courses are taught without PC nonsense, and that students therefore actually get a chance to learn English, math, science, psychology, history, etc. that the tuition is supposed to be paying for, and consequently will graduate with the skills needed to get a good job and be a productive citizen. The campaign might also encourage prospective students, faculty and staff who are interested in protesting patriarchy, racism, rape culture, and Western civilization, or believe they need safe spaces and trigger warnings to apply elsewhere for their educational/employment needs.

  15. Felix says

    An important reminder that the US isn’t the whole world. Writing from Germany I can very much confirm that the situation here is probably even more relaxed than in Canada. While I don’t teach myself, two of my closest relatives do so, as well as many close friends, almost all of them in the humanities. When I recently brought up the topic, none of them even knew what a trigger warning is. Neither could any one comeup with an example of campus censorship or the like.

    This isn’t to say that all is perfect here. Many humanities fields have their leftist, social constructivist biases and controversies certainly exist. However these are generally resolved through discussions, with no career damage, let alone career ends involved.

    Basically students view university as a place to learn and not as a place to be shielded from emotional harm. This may also have to do with the fact that students don’t reside on campus and live most of their whole social life outside.

    Of course even such “safe” places as Germany will have to be wary of the illiberal tides that might soon reach us but for now I would say: relax.

    • Stephanie says


      I certainly have less knowledge about the situation in Germany, but something that strikes me about the German students I know is they have remarkably homogenous opinions, which match precisely the opinions espoused by the German government. I’ve talked with several of them about the migrant issue, for instance, and they were not aware of any information that contradicts the opinion their government chose for them. Perhaps you don’t see PC culture because PC culture is only visible when someone commits a heresy: if everyone conforms, on the surface everything looks peaceful.

      The existence of PC culture in Germany is well-supported by the cover up of migrant crime in the media, police, and legal system. The country where migrants who firebombed a synagogue are acquitted because they were “protesting Israel” certainly has a leftist problem. The country a former Yazidi sex slave fled because that country was protecting her rapist certainly has a leftist problem.

      Working-class Germans seem more aware. You get a few drinks into them and they’ll admit to their hometowns not being safe anymore. They’ll admit Germans have knowingly accepted destruction out of guilt about the Holocaust. They’ll admit to being sick of it. Germany better do something about the existential threat it faces, or history will repeat itself.

  16. Dan Meegan is at the milder end of a spectrum of (self) censorship but it is still there, it is stilled based on flawed logic and it is very damaging to men and women.

    He removed the material which showed a stoical calm response to having men who quite openly place her in a position where they could view and admire her in a sexual way.

    The reason for removing this material was ‘I learned that no two women are alike in terms of how they’ll respond …… I learned that by offering up Native Companion’s reaction as an implicit ideal, I was suggesting that there was something wrong with other types of reaction. ‘ The problem is by removing this or other similar example your are strongly suggesting that anything except an indignant, perhaps anxious response is wrong. The only fair method is to provide a range of responses so that women can make their own judgement. To censor responses in this way is to treat women as so weak and fragile that they cannot operate in the real world. Your initial reasoning was right.

    This is very much the view of modern feminsim which seems intent on infantalising and weakening women with a view of women as eternal victims unable to handle the world. This is undoubtedly done with the motive of using the victimhood of women as a tool for political advantage but is massively damaging to men and women.

    The authour pandered to this infantilisation of women as illustrated in the passage: ‘I learned that no two women are alike in terms of how they’ll respond to an encounter with a man. One might be traumatized by something that seems fairly benign to an outside observer, while another might be comparatively unscathed …’. In other words a mere encounter with a man which an observer might conclude was benign might be traumatizing. That is frightening to men and women. Women that they can be so weak as to be unable to handle benign interactions and men who could be accused of traumitisation on the basis of a benign interac tion. Even the ‘tougher women’ would only be ‘comparitively unscathed’.

    The solution is to stop pandering to the feminist lobby for female fragility and treat women as adults.

    • Wow bro, you sure wrote a lot to defend men’s right to “admire” women. Imagine being so delicate you’d consider a group of men not being able to ogle a woman as some great encroachment of freedom.

      Sounds like you’re happy to treat men as infants who are unable to resist the urge to look up girls skirts.

      • Wo Bro, you wrote a lot about the strawman argument that I defend mens right to “admire” women.

        I made no argument that there is such a right. I do think it is harmless and an attempt to prevent such a innate part of human nature is futile. What I did argue is that censoring women’s viewpoints who do not get upset by men admiring them is wrong.

        You are arguing that womens viewpoints should be censored, my argument is that women’s voices should be allowed to be heard including those that do not fit in the current victim orientated orthodoxy. We should be teaching women to be strong independant adults not victims.

  17. Tome708 says

    I believe he had not observed it or been bothered. He obviously tows the line

  18. ga gamba says

    As an educator, I am not one to walk on eggshells with my students, so it is possible that Ford’s new rules might save my bacon someday. But my experience suggests they probably are unnecessary so long as academics exercise a baseline of common sense and decency.

    So, offered the guarantee of a rule that may save your bacon someday, you nonetheless find it probably unnecessary. How do you feel about other guarantees? If someone offered to install a fire suppression system in your home at no cost, would you decline? Would you refuse free international traveller’s health insurance because you think you’ll never need it when abroad? If you’re taken ill or injured outside Canada will the national health scheme ride to the rescue? Maybe it’s just me, but I find it preposterous someone would decline a guaranteed good for an uncertainty. As someone who’s interested in game theory, I would’ve supposed you recognise non-zero-sum win-win outcomes when they’re before you.

    Of course, you enjoy an power imbalance over your students. Perhaps the speech rights that you think are probably unnecessary may benefit those with less power than you. Have you considered that?

    A free-speech rule isn’t taking away from, it’s thwarting the potential of rights being suppressed. And it costs absolutely nothing to add a statement to the university’s conduct code – well aside from the minimal cost of the person tasked with typing it, but you’re paying that employee regardless. It’s rare to find a no-cost solution that creates so much value.

    I appreciate the laudable goal of academics exercising a baseline of common sense and decency, but I see a few wrinkles. Firstly, who defines the baseline? Does one even exist presently? Secondly, it appears to me that such a baseline would take much more effort to create, involve a process likely to be quite contentious, and it would be far wordier than an efficient and to the point free-speech statement. The Americans get five rights in the one sentence that is the First Amendment. Thirdly, what assurances do we have the academics are “decent” people? Now we have to define that. Does the university recruit faculty based on decency? How is this measured? When push comes to shove, does the hiring committee select on academic achievement or decency? I appreciate a Rube Goldberg machine as much as the next person, but those ought to be for entertainment and not the framework of laws and policies. Lastly, and I think very importantly, let’s read Guelph’s statements about speech. For example, of its harassment policy, the administration says this is determined by the impact of the behaviour on the person being harassed, rather than the intent of the harasser and by whether a reasonable person could conclude that the behaviour is harassment. One’s perception trumps all. One of the ways the university encourages students to oppose harassment is to “refuse to go along with harassment masked as humour/academic debate.” (Emphasis mine) Yippee, now we get to squabble about whether or not something is being masked.

    I can name dozens of contentious topics worth exploring and academic debate that many may find to be harassment. If it’s their perception that rules the roost, well what happens then? Given the option of relying on the “reasonable” person or a codified speech guarantee, I’m choosing the latter. People are flawed, biased, and sometimes even vindictive and shitty. As Dr Meegan himself writes in his paper Zero-sum bias: perceived competition despite unlimited resources: “A typical situation in my household goes something like this: My two children ask for a snack, and I slice an apple into sections, giving an equal number of sections to each. Inevitably, one of them (and often both) will claim that their sibling’s sections are larger, accompanied by complaints of unfairness.”

    Imagine what happens when the stakes are perceived to be higher than an apple slice. I’d wager the complaints of unfairness and worse are more heated. Be assured, some will be shouting from a bullhorn they’ve been “silenced” whilst claiming from centre stage they’ve been “erased”. People and their peculiar perceptions. Go figure.

    I have been teaching at my university for almost 20 years, yet I cannot recall a single instance in which my students protested the expression of an offensive idea.

    That’s wonderful. But I notice it’s simply you. A quick google of speech-related controversies on your campus finds: On February 28, 2018, Life Choice was notified by Student Risk Management that its application to hold the event had been rejected. Student Risk Management requested numerous changes be made to the event, and that Life Choice answer numerous questions including “how the information will be displayed” and “how will you handle if someone is triggered by these conversations”. Life Choice submitted their responses and further details about the event to Student Risk Management on March 1, 2018. Student Risk Management did not respond to this second application and the event was unable to proceed as planned.

    This was not the first incident involving Life Choice. In 2008 the Central Student Association of the University of Guelph unanimously decided to pull accreditation from Life Choice, the pro-life student group, deeming it “unsafe to women” due to its promotion of the pro-life message.

    Hey, I get it. A lot of people dislike the anti-abortionists. Speech rights exist not merely to benefit those whose opinions are popular. Gosh! And shucks!

    • X. Citoyen says

      The Campus Freedom Index’s solid F rating tells a different story, now doesn’t it?

    • Hamilton Sunshine says

      Ga gamba. Why aren’t you writing actual articles for Quillette? Your comments are as interesting insightful and sometimes as long as the articles you comment on.

  19. Ken A. says

    This is the kind of nonsense that drives me nuts:

    “Every year, I teach an introductory psychology course to groups of 600 students. One of the sections covers evolutionary psychology, which tends to emphasize biological sex over gender identity, and focuses closely on biological differences between males and females.”

    To which I can only respond: Where in the wide world of sports do you think Gender Identity comes from? You just have a few choices:

    1) Biology
    2) Chemistry
    3) Physics
    4) Evil Transgender Agenda Controlled by Satan

    Please choose wisely!

  20. You sad bros really don’t have anything better to talk about than “My student called me the bad word” do you? Every single day.

  21. ralfy says

    The only type of complaint I kept receiving before “triggering” became fashionable was that the work was too long or difficult to read.

  22. Stephanie says

    It’s good to know that some departments aren’t overcome by political correctness, but I’m wondering how much this professor’s peaceful existence is attributable to him conforming to the left’s ideology. The PC culture only makes itself apparent when someone has committed a heresy.

    I’m a graduate student in a STEM field, and everyone I interact with at university assumes I’m a raging leftist such as them. From the administration spamming women’s events and pushing a false narrative about women in STEM, to bogus “studies” purporting gender discrimination in my field left in the lunch room, to casual conversations and meetings with supervisors where attacking Republicans is safe, but a negative word is never uttered against a Democrat.

    The concept that there’d be a conservative in the room simply never occurs to them. I’ve gotten incredulous stares and brought on long, awkward silences by making mainstream conservative arguments. The overwhelming ideological conformity is embarrassing for supposedly independent thinkers, and I see fertile ground for a PC frenzy if someone important expresses a controversial opinion – a low bar for these people.

  23. TofeldianSage says

    “Most readers would probably agree that there is nothing particularly controversial here.”

    Let me be the first to disagree.

    This writer has drunk so much of the Feminist kool-aid he doesn’t know where he is standing. It has edged out any sense of self-awareness he ever had.

    I especially liked the Feminist reading list (not one item, mind you, but many), and the thoughtful discuss he led about how women “should” feel about a host of Feminist issues, all comfortably situated in the Feminist safe zone. What the hell has Feminism got to do with teaching the science of psychology, you may ask. Nothing at all, of course. Feminism is a political movement. That’s why all the language around his discussion group was about ‘should’ and ‘ought’; it’s activism, not science.

    That this guy sees no incidents of free speech violation in his surroundings is because he is safely ensconced at the heart of it. He isn’t anywhere near the coal face, and too naive to know it.

    If anything this article is a great example of how detached from reality the university is.

    Of and did you catch the Rob Ford reference? It isn’t that the late mayor of Toronto has anything to do with the story, because he doesn’t. But the author invoked his name so that all the Rob Ford haters would recognize an ally. Truly pathetic.

    Dan Meegan does a great job illustrating the point he set out to disprove. Utterly clueless.

  24. Constantin says

    There is very little to add to ga gamba’s detailed comment with respect to the obfuscation of well known free speech issues at the University of Guelph. There is, however, one point that AJ zeroed in but requires more clarification:

    Professor Meegan argues on the one hand that his teaching method is to offer even controversial material as “food for thought”, and on the other that he withdrew an item from the menu because a not very aggressive student found the food indigestible. The internal contradiction could not be more glaring.

    Professor Meegan publicly thumps his chest proudly for a reversal in the teaching relationship where he found out – for the first time in his life (I guess) that people react very differently to similar situations. It makes me wonder whether someone waiting this long to discover such a fact should teach introductory psychology.

    I am certain that you are well intended and gentle, Professor, but you definitely took the wrong lesson from your student if there was any lesson there. When we spontaneously share the story of some behavior that strikes us as courageous, or otherwise notable, we share a bit of our soul. The student told you that what touched your soul in a way that prompted you to share, did not touch hers similarly. But she was not the woman in the story and had no right to replace the heroine of the story. A reasonable response would have been to say “in her place I would have been deeply hurt” or whatever else. Instead, your tolerant student (who did not go for your job) was satisfied to teach you as a human being that you should not share with students what touches your soul as worthy of attention, unless it is universally acceptable and could not possibly run into trouble with true diversity of experience and view-point! And you found this abject result worthy of display in a Journal with rapidly growing circulation. It makes me sad that you do not see the problem with what happened to you and can only hope that even if willing to sanitize your own soul over a minor and non-confrontational disagreement, you will at least stop doing onto others what has been done to you. 🙁

    • Hamilton Sunshine says

      This is the problem with safe spaces and removing stuff just because one or two people complain. People need to be exposed to uncomfortable or difficult ideas they don’t agree with. It’s the only way you can effectively formulate and deal with your own ideas and argue against your opponensts, safe in the knowledge you’ve actualy thought it out. Hiding from triggers only makes you more fragile.

  25. X. Citoyen says

    I’ve encountered a lot of faculty members over the years who say the same two things in close succession. They make light of all the fuss over free speech on campus, and then, without a hint of self-awareness, they complain about how they can’t get their students engaged in discussions—just as you did, Professor Meegan.

    Yet when I come along and invite them to connect the dots by pointing out that the students won’t talk because they’ve got the university’s speech code hanging over them and they’ve got speech police among their number listening for wrongspeak, what do I get in reply? Flustered bluster about how there’s no connection between the two. Then after failing to recover from the clang of cognitive dissonance, they invariably change tack and assert that they’d defend the student if others attacked them for saying something controversial in their class.

    At this point in the conversation, I lean in a bit, look the faculty member in the eye and say, “No, you won’t. You’ll persuade yourself that it’s not your fight and maybe even that the student brought it upon himself. You and I both know you won’t defend the student. No one ever does, and students know it. And this is the third reason that your students avoid saying anything of substance in your class.” The conversation always ends here. But no one rebukes me for presuming to read their minds because they know I’m right.

    You know I’m right too, Professor Meegan. Being a frog in the frying pan prevents you from seeing it as clearly as your students do. They’re no protected by tenure. They know what happens to people who say the wrong thing, and they lack the confidence your years of practice in self-censoring have given you. But there’s nothing but willful blindness stopping you now. So what are you going to do about this state of affairs? Are you going to let an illiterate gaggle of emotionally unstable fanatics dictate what you say and what your students learn? Or are you going to get off your knees?

  26. Just Me says

    Of the social sciences, economics and most areas of psych seem the least affected, probably because they rely on hard scientific data and so are less amenable to postmodernist analyses, and universities like Guelph do not attract SJWs with grievance studies fields. Such institutions are always a decade or two behind, ideologically, but eventually they will be affected by the trendsetters and the graduates the latter send out to other institutions.

    And yet as others have pointed out, the prof actually demonstrates he is oblivious to how much of that worldview he has already absorbed, and what is actually occurring even on his own campus, and is actually not very reassuring.

    • X. Citoyen says

      Another one thinking hard science is a factor. Look at what’s happened to physicist Alessandro Strumia at the hands of other physicists. He’s only the latest, far from the only one.

      • X. Citoyen says

        Just Me,

        My apologies. The above remark probably came off as more hostile than intended. My point is that rigor is no defence because they don’t come in through the front door, but through the back door. The new piece on women in philosophy here on Quillette is a good example of how it works. You don’t persuade philosophers that social justice is a good thing; you force them to change their hiring policies so you can push in your people. Then they start teaching students, and so on.

  27. codadmin says

    The author of this piece is a leftist who has never challenged leftist orthodoxy. So, It’s obvious why he’s never been attacked by the fascists.

    The blurb for his upcoming book says it all.

  28. (This comments section seems to have veered a bit?)
    I’m just here to say fuck you to folks who don’t think it’s worth including some DFW essayage as part of the curriculum. I do choose to disagree with the authors analysis.
    I agree with the author that it’s great to lean into critical feedback. But I wonder how the author justifies a change to the material from one negative comment, assuming there were more than two students attending?
    The article did also seem a bit “not happening to me so all good”, as a few others have pointed out.

  29. The author should try assigning Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. I’m sure it would be a hit with the coeds.

    As for this:

    “it is possible that Ford’s new rules might save my bacon someday.”

    He’s just triggered a million muslims. Prepare to be protested.

  30. BrannigansLaw says

    “There are these scientists who apply a biological approach to understanding human behaviour. They call themselves evolutionary psychologists. You might find their methods and conclusions appealing.”

    The choice of the word “appealing” is really bizarre. The correct word is interesting.

    Nobody should find it appealing that there are biological differences between men and women that mean women will likely earn less on average than men do.

    Or that such differences are the root of why men make up most of the prison population.

    Or that the racial IQ gap is real and the biological factors likely account for at least 50% of that gap.

    Leftist’s claims that, evolutionary psychologists (and those who agree with them) find their results appealing, is their justification for their attacks on such people. As they think that such people are trying to justify both the real and imagined crimes against women and minorities.

  31. whatpriceliberty says

    That is ridiculous. There is almost not one single book or essay on earth that you should be forced to retract as assigned reading. Especially something as inoffensive as that! Also you proved the opposite of your point that universities are open to all ideas by saying that you presented to your female students the two options Bernie or Hillary for who can potentially do More for women. First of all Bernie is a socialist and America is truly not ready for a socialist. We’re still too young and too wily and too proud of our rugged individualism to be turned into jaded socialists yet. Second – Hillary is a corporate shill. I am a strong woman and I think for myself in terms of what is best for all people and my family – not just what is best for women. I like Trump because I like his ideas on how to help raise up the inner cities – where I have lived. And he kept his word and he raised black unemployment – and so he’s helping. He’s also ending the race baiting rhetoric that Obama instituted. The economy is better, the mood of the country is better, a return to legal immigration is helping the working class. All of these things help women by virtue that they help us all. It is false that Bernie and Hillary were the only two possible choices to help women with “women’s” issues and one of the most patronizing things I’ve ever heard – pun intended that you have Patronized me with that idea! This is what is wrong w/ the Left – total lack of self awareness at every turn. You say women have different levels of sensitivity in their reaction to how men relate to them? There are exceptions but generally what they have are different levels of manipulative behavior in terms of how they will play a given situation. Strong women – like the one in DFW’s essay can take care of themselves as equals in most any situation. These 3rd wave feminists want to go back to the days of chaperones. They are literally not thinking through the consequences of their demands.

  32. Wirdway says

    I think you are absolutely mistaken and very complacent. No students in the faculty where I work ever come across conservative or religious ideas – ever. There is not one out conservative-leaning professor, nor one Christian. I can think of several instances of christian students receiving crushing and unthinking put downs from unthinking and unconscious liberal bigots. Whole areas of research and numerous specific topics are off the agenda for even the most reasonable dissenter – assuming they want to sustain friendships and don’t want to endanger their career (trans-politics; the shibboleths associated with gender equity politics in the university; indigenisation; colonisation and decolonisation to name a few). And conservative speakers are routinely barracked and attacked often physically – Ben Shapiro last week in UBC, Faith Goldy, Steve Bannon, Jordan Peterson [of course] – and many more. The effect of these high profile cases is that even where there are conservative professors (I’m on the left), they keep their heads down and are loathe to host ‘provocative’ speakers. So is there a problem in Canada? Most certainly there is.

  33. Jason Cooper says

    Guelph is a University very rooted in biological sciences, from Veterinary medicines to Agriculture. The spill over effect could indicate a more grounded student population which may result in the differences in student culture than that of Laurier, UofT, UBC, McMaster, Queens (to name a few) that have had very unfortunately effective student ‘protests’ of free speech, spineless and reactive Administration, and ‘coddle cultures’ that have resulted in de-platforming, breech of protocol, and presumptions of guilt on accusations against faculty.
    Secondly, your decision to remove DFW’s piece only served to remove it from another students opportunity to reach an interpretation that the one student revealed to you.
    Look at it as though you provided a mathematic equation, and because one student solved it, you erased it from your curriculum. So…this is either evidence of shortsightedness or reasoned excuse for being gun-shy. I don’t know…but their didn’t seem to be any purpose to the anecdote other than ‘methinks thou doth protesteth…’
    Consider yourself fortunate you can provide this anecdote.

  34. Ned Flanders says

    This guy has earned a pat on the head from the ideological zealots in Canadian academia intent on squashing free speech.

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  36. Howard C Ellis says

    That some or even all the students might react negatively to a reading is not a reason not to assign it. Rather, the opposite is true.

  37. Robert says

    The author’s idea of intellectual diversity is a choice between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Is this a joke? How about a debate about whether Donald Trump has done more for black Americans in the last two years that the democrats had done in the previous fifty years?

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