Campus catch-up

News from campuses around Canada

Calgary professor left in 2009 because of anti-Semitic student

Aaron Hughes, a former professor at the University of Calgary with a PhD in Islamic Studies, left in 2009 after the university wouldn’t remove a student spreading radical Muslim views from his classroom.

Hughes found a message written in Arabic on a classroom chalkboard endorsing Islamic Jihad and Hamas, considered a terrorist group in Canada. He is Jewish, and considered this to be anti-Semitic, but when he said he was uncomfortable teaching in what he said to be a hostile environment, the university failed to respond.

Hughes also said that he once saw a young man stand up at a 9/11 memorial service to say, “Islam will always stand up for those who are dispossessed,” and later saw a student wearing a Hamas headband.

He asked his department to let him teach another subject, but his request was declined by university officials.

There have been reports that people from Calgary have traveled abroad to fight with extremist groups, and there are worries about homegrown radicalization in Calgary after Salman Ashrafi participated in a suicide bombing in Iraq in Nov. 2013. Ashrafi was raised in Calgary.

Hughes also said that he heard conservative views of Islam in his classes, with students calling scholars heretics and labeling some fields of study non-Muslim.

— Chloe Sobel

Queen Bey conquers University of Victoria

Next year, the University of Victoria will offer a course on Beyoncé, taught by popular music professor Melissa Avdeeff.

The course is so popular already that capacity has been increased from 70 to 100 seats.

Avdeeff’s M.A. thesis at McMaster University was on Beyoncé, and she’s using the popular singer as a gateway to popular music studies. She told Maclean’s that the course will explore the concept of the male gaze, as well as authenticity, saying that rock musicians are often perceived to be authentic and sincere when presenting themselves publicly, while pop musicians are seen as inauthentic and simply entertainment.

She says she aims to challenge these stereotypes and encourage critical engagement with the music students consume.

As for the male gaze, she wants to ask who Beyoncé is performing for, and whether she’s empowering herself or performing for male pleasure.

Avdeeff also said that while people have questioned the course’s legitimacy, had she chosen a different artist such as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones there would be less outcry.

Avdeeff is primarily involved in the music and technology side of popular music, and looks at social media and how it’s changed the way fans interact with music.

— Chloe Sobel

Student sues University of Manitoba for not admitting her to medical school

Henya Olfman failed to be admitted to the University of Manitoba’s medical school in 2009 — so, with the help of her father, a lawyer, she sued the province and the university.

The Olfmans initially filed a 154-page statement of claim against the university and the province in Feb. 2012, and the statement was tossed a year later because it dealt with a matter that was in the university’s jurisdiction.

The second claim accused the province and university of violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Once again, it was thrown out.

The Olfmans argued that because the rules of admission to the medical school had changed after Henya started her undergraduate degree in 2005, a contract was broken before she applied. One of the changes was the introduction of multiple mini-interviews, used to determine applicants’ soft skills such as communication. The Olfmans argued that no faculty of medicine anywhere in the world used these interviews in applications, although McMaster University uses it, as well as schools in Israel and Australia.

The Olfmans also took issue with a “rurality co-efficient”, which gives extra points to people who are more likely to practice in rural areas.

The judge awarded $3,000 each to the province and university.

— Chloe Sobel

Christian law school approved by New Brunswick lawyers

Graduates from a religious law school to open in 2016 at Trinity Western University in British Columbia will now be eligible to practice in New Brunswick, as well as in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The New Brunswick Law Society voted 14 to five in favor of accreditation, unlike societies in Nova Scotia and Ontario, who rejected accreditation.

The university has been accused of anti-gay discrimination because it asks students to sign an agreement that promises they will uphold biblical values — including no sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

Trinity Western argues that the failure by Ontario and Nova Scotia to offer accreditation is discrimination on the basis of religion.

The governing council of the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society voted to accredit Trinity Western, but only if it relinquished the agreement that forbids sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

John Malone, president of the New Brunswick Law Society, said that no matter what law school students graduate from, they all complete Law Society training and evaluation, including the core aspects of professional responsibility and non-discrimination. He said that the governing council will always recognize religious freedoms and the right to sexual orientation without discrimination.

The British Columbia Law Society initially decided to accredit the school, but a non-binding vote led to 77 per cent of voters favouring a resolution to deny accreditation.

— Chloe Sobel

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