Letter to the Editor: October 13th

In 2018, Professor Bruce Pardy moderated the annual Liberty Lecture delivered by Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, professor, and best-selling author. The lecture centered on compelled speech in Canada. Aside from a handful of radicals who tried to disrupt the proceedings, the captivated audience remained respectful and thoughtful.

On that day, I would have been proud to call myself a Queen’s student. When the University reaffirmed its commitment to the invaluable principle of freedom of speech, it inspired me to study law at this institution. However, following Principal Patrick Deane’s recent editorial in the Queen’s Alumni Review, I am now embarrassed to call myself a Queen’s student.

In this editorial, titled the ‘The Choices We Make,’ Principal Deane seems to critique freedom of speech. The academy, Deane argues, is constrained by Eurocentric assumptions which are “unimaginable except as facilitated by social and economic privilege.” Deane goes on to say Queen’s has been complicit in systemic oppression, facilitated by aspects of the “university ethos” like freedom of speech, therefore suggesting the University must be remade according to “the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigeneity.” In summary, Deane is justifying censorship by painting minority groups as victims of free speech. The notion that free expression is oppressive rather than liberating is oddly familiar considering George Orwell once wrote that “freedom is slavery.”

I was born and raised in Canada. I am guilty of taking my privilege and the advantages afforded to me for granted. I have always been able to say what I think, for instance, without fear of being denounced to secret police or being imprisoned. Many people can only dream of this (supposed-to-be) universal freedom.

As a student of history, I have learned about the failed communist experiments of the twentieth century—such as Karl Marx’s seductive ideology, of which Deane writes favourably. If we listen to student activists, like those outside of the Liberty Lecture, or to protesters south of the border, we will see Marx as correct for saying we must overthrow the ideas and values of the ruling class.

In Maoist China, such thinking led to the Cultural Revolution in which the Communist Party waged war against the Four Olds: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits and Old Ideas. Deane seems to suggest similar action on campus to protect marginalized members of our community from the perpetuation of old ideas like freedom of speech.

The first casualty in Queen’s Cultural Revolution will likely be Sir John A. Macdonald, for whom the Faculty of Law Building was named. Following this movement to its logical conclusion will lead to the 1984 reality of Ingsoc, Newspeak and Thoughtcrime.

However, university administrators don’t fear this dystopic future. As long as they mouth empty platitudes and toe the line, they will continue to collect six-figure salaries and ultimately be lauded as champions of tolerance and progress—that is, until the mob comes for them.

My generation often expresses outrage at our elders and laments our inheritance of a shattered economy and polluted world. Our universities are in an equally perilous state; if we do not awaken to that truth, they too will crash and burn.  

Calum Anderson (calumanderson@trentu.ca) is a JD Candidate at Queen’s University. He holds a Bachelor of Education from Western University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and History from Trent University.

 

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