A prompt by a friend of mine, having to do with some idiocy about how ‘god created social media and it says so in Genesis’ or the like, had me all prepped to return to the draft of a post regarding biblical ‘prophecy’ that I’ve had simmering for some time.

I had to shelve that there plan.  Once again I’m the victim of an uncontrollable tangent.

It happens a lot.  I don’t think I’m all that easily distracted, but at times it is definitely distressing how quickly my thoughts can become derailed.  Or sent off on another rail line entirely.

(In my defence, I’m not alone among my friends- many of whom frequently traverse out into the ether while recounting an event or a story- and I’m usually the one who brings them back around to topic.  It’s a gift.  My own occasional derailments can therefore be excused.)


While making dinner last night I had the news on in the background so I could get caught up on the weather and such (speaking of weather… did you catch Rick Mercer’s Rant about weather that’s been flying around the interworlds?  Classic.  And true.  Mea culpa.  But that damn polar vortex DID make it waaaaaay too freakin cold for a time.  9 degrees Celsius tomorrow, though.  This is a great tangent- Rick always puts things so succinctly…even if the link I’d attached was ‘removed by request’- check it out on YouTube- Rick Mercer- Weather Rant) and caught the tail end of the report about this latest example of bureaucracy (this time at a university, rather than the political bureaucracy) run completely amok.

And getting back on track…  First off, please note that Professor Grayson, a sociologist, has researched and written extensively about the experience of university students, including the ways in which factors such as race and immigration status affect performance and engagement.

Please also note that Professor Grayson stated that he spoke with the student early in the game saying that he could not accommodate the request, to which the student replied ‘okay.’  He also said- and this is the most important aspect of this whole crazy thing- that “the student is not the problem.”

Interestingly, politicians, of all stripes and at all levels of government, agree with Professor Grayson.  I’m not sure how, exactly, the university (which has an extremely diverse student population) will respond and whether or not any examinations of their Human Rights Policies will be undertaken as a result of this whole thing, but the situation has illustrated the trickiness of dealing with individual rights and freedoms in a system that is controlled by such an unthinking bureaucracy that rote decisions seem to be made favouring the rights and freedoms of one over the rights and freedoms of many.

Did the university make the wrong decision?  Yep.  And then they tried to cover this allowance for the perpetuation of institutionally-supported sexism by saying that allowances were made for those who were unable- due to geography/proximity- to attend the group sessions.

Not.  The.  Same.

The Huffington Post spelled out the whole thing nicely:  … accommodations had already been made for other students who were studying abroad — they were permitted to complete an alternative assignment, the Toronto Star reports.“I think Mr. X must be accommodated in exactly the same way as the distant student has been,” the newspaper reports, citing the vice dean’s letter to Grayson.  Grayson, however, sees it as a case of religious rights clashing with women’s rights — and the former coming out on top.  “In order to meet an instance of a religious requirement we have tacitly accepted a negative definition of females,” Grayson told the Star. “That’s not acceptable.”

Discussions of this situation are leading off on tangents that involve religion-bashing, that-as happens with most religion-bashing- is based in an extremely superficial understanding of the religion/culture that prompted the request.  I’ve already seen a headline- in one of the free newspapers you can find on the TTC- referencing the situation and suggesting that refusal to participate in ‘mixed’ classes is ‘a sign of things to come’ or some comparable nonsense.

Which leads me off on tangents about why universities- and not just the professors- need to be advocating the sharing of ideas between students of different genders, cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations and etc.- while than encouraging support for the worldview(s) outlined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Most notably, Section 15- the part that deals with equality rights.

If you don’t want to participate in classes/assignments/interactions with people who are somehow ‘other’ than you are, don’t freakin enroll in a public university or expect to be employed at a company that follows the guidelines laid out in the Charter.

Full stop.

Any type of generalized bigotry (and when you’re talking about roughly half of the population of the country, I’d say that’s pretty ‘general’) canNOT be suborned anywhere, but especially in our institutions of higher learning.

The blind application of policy- even well-meaning policy dealing with human rights and freedom of religion- sets a potentially dangerous precedent when to do so violates the rights and freedoms of other citizens.  That’s what happened here.  And it’s unacceptable.

Last weekend while I was out and about (tangential note:  I was not ‘oot and aboot’) I heard this song- for the first time in ages.

Way back when, our own M+M (or ‘Martha and the Muffins, the later incarnation’) wrote the song as a reaction to the slow-to-change mores of the day- and how radio stations could, and would, chose to play or not play songs with topics that were outside of their ‘comfort zone.’  Interracial relationships remained verboten on certain airwaves- and some radio stations refused, in turn, to play Black Stations White Stations because of its subject matter.  Seriously.  In 1984.

A voice inside of my car told me today
there was a song of a love they would not play
She was black, he was white
A voice inside of my car told me today…

Black stations, white stations
Break down the door
Stand up and face the music
This is nineteen eighty-four!

This is actually not a tangent.  Although the song deals with changing opinions and policies about racial prejudice, the theme remains the same.  Changing ideology doesn’t happen overnight.  But back-tracking away from the progressive ideologies that are protected under our systems of law?   That’s a BAD idea.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this situation.  It can- and perhaps, should- be used as a starting point for the development of better policies and procedures in educational and other public institutions.  Accommodations can be reasonably made when there is a legitimate case to be found.  Citing ‘religion’, without demonstrable support, can never be permitted.

Tangent comes from the Latin word tangere– meaning ‘to touch’.  In geometry, the tangent line ‘just touches’ a plane curve.  For us not-so-mathematical-types, a tangent is a sudden divergence or change of course.

Both senses of the word are valid in this situation.  The situation at York University touches on some of the issues that can arise in a multicultural society.  We are trying to work it all out, but there are continuing growing pains as we try to determine what being Canadian, and subject to our Charters and laws and policies, really means.  This process involves divergences in our collective course- and changes to both individual and societal attitudes.  Whether those changes are sudden or slow to manifest, they WILL happen and set us back on the right path as they demonstrate those things that we value most.

Equality needs to remain on top of that list.

PS- although this might be a slight tangent in some ways, in others it really isn’t.  My friend Susan posted a thoughtful piece today about the great and healing value of ‘touch’.  Go have a look, if you have a chance.  The more we are in touch- emotionally, intellectually and physically (when/where appropriate, of course) with those around us, the more smoothly we will be able to execute these changes.  For the betterment of us all.