1. Dalhousie Senate takes up Masuma Khan issue
After news media reported that Dalhousie student Masuma Khan is facing disciplinary action, many members of the Dalhousie Senate demanded that the issue be discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the Senate.
To back up, as explained by the Globe & Mail last Thursday:
A student at Dalhousie University is facing disciplinary action for a Facebook post she wrote about Canada 150 celebrations, after another student complained that her post discriminated against white people on the basis of skin colour and ancestry.
Masuma Khan, a vice-president of the Dalhousie Student Union, wrote the post on June 30, in response to another post by the Nova Scotia Young Progressive Conservatives (NSYPC). The NSYPC message criticized a motion by the student union not to participate in Canada 150 celebrations on July 1 and to label such events “an act of colonialism.”
The student union “should prioritize advocating for student issues, not attacking Canada,” the Conservatives’ message said.
“At this point, f*** you all,” Ms. Khan responded. “I stand by the motion I put forward. I stand by Indigenous students. … Be proud of this country? For what, over 400 years of genocide?” She signed off with the hashtags #unlearn150, #whitefragilitycankissmyass and #yourwhitetearsarentsacredthislandis.
On July 5, Michael Smith, a graduate student in history, filed a written complaint about Ms. Khan’s Facebook comments, alleging that “targeting ‘white people’ who celebrate Canada Day is blatant discrimination.”
After conducting an investigation, Dalhousie’s vice-provost of student affairs, Arig al Shaibah, concluded that Ms. Khan violated its code of student conduct which prohibits “unwelcome or persistent conduct that the student knows, or ought to know, would cause another person to feel demeaned, intimidated or harassed.”
“The choice of language and tone used in the Facebook post … was very concerning,” the university said in its submission to the discipline committee, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail. Beginning “a post that addresses peers … with expletives … cannot be defended as merely passion for social justice.”
As many have pointed out, the white male Dentistry students who posted rape fantasies about their women classmates on a Facebook page faced no such disciplinary action.
After the Globe & Mail article was published, Khan received scores of vile messages, with the writers threatening to rape and kill her. She has posted those messages on her own social media accounts.
Monday, a letter organized by the law faculty and signed by over 20 profs was published by The Coast and the Globe & Mail. “While our constitutional order offers protection to many kinds of speech, none is more valued and protected than political speech,” the profs wrote. “Expression which challenges majoritarian views, traditions, and practices that have caused harms to marginalized and oppressed minorities lies at the very core of Canada’s constitutional commitment to the protection of political speech.”
Click here to read the letter.
Tuesday morning, Arig al Shaibah, the Vice-Provost Student Affairs who had initiated the disciplinary action against Khan, sent a memo to the entire university as a sort of pre-emptive defence of her actions. In it, she said her actions had been “placed out of context” and have “generated speculation and inaccuracies that require clarification.” You can read al Shaibah’s memo here.
Yesterday afternoon’s meeting was as raucous as Senate gets. I sat with Desmond Cole (see below) in the guest seating section, and as I always do at Senate meetings, set up my audio recording equipment so I could accurately report on the meeting later. Cole also started recording with his cell phone. But immediately, the Secretary of the Senate, Andrea Power*, came up into the gallery and told us that Senate rules prohibit recording meetings. That was news to me: I’ve been recording Senate meetings for note-taking purposes for years without anyone objecting. It has never occurred to me that this would be a problem — even the Provincial and Supreme Courts allow reporters to record proceedings for note-taking purposes, although we are prohibited from publishing those recordings. But for whatever reason, here were two journalists at a Senate meeting being told we could not record. I don’t know if this is because simply no one has ever seen me recording before, or because of the controversial nature of yesterday’s meeting, or because I was with a black guy who was also recording.
(As an aside, the Senate should realize that it is a governing body of a publicly funded institution. It should adopt the open meeting and public disclosure requirements of other public governing bodies, including making meeting materials, proposed motions, etc, available to the public ahead of time, and should allow reporters to operate as is typical in other such settings.)
As the meeting progressed, al Shaibah summarized the points she had made in her memo, and said that she views the disciplinary action taken against Khan as “part of the learning process” — that is, learning for Khan, and not for al Shaibah.
Khan, who is a student Senator, spoke forcefully, calling al Shaibah out repeatedly. I wish I could accurately quote from her comments, but as I was prohibited from recording, I’ll just say it was a complete dressing down. I was impressed with her poise and defiance.
Senator Janice Graham, who is from the Faculty of Medicine, read a letter that I think captured the majority opinion of the Senate. “Last week,” she read, “several friends from across the country called to ask ‘what’s going on at your university?’” She continued:
In the same week that a national report gave Dal a failing grade on its sexual assault policies (D+), an indigenous student accused the Dalhousie Board of Governors of entrenched racism, a Muslim student was threatened with disciplinary action for defending herself against islamophobic white fragility, and 1,500 intoxicated mostly white students rioted on our neighbour’s lawns and public streets in the guise of university homecoming.
Graham went on to point out that Constance Backhouse’s 2015 report in response to the Dentistry scandal “told us that ‘race is a ticking bomb’ at Dalhousie. ‘What we heard,’ she warned, ‘suggests an entrenched culture of white privilege.’”
To illustrate that privilege, continued Graham:
[T]he Tiger mascot is the most “present” personality on our website; the symbolic centrepiece of a football game, with serious health risks, played by men only — is the signature event at the homecoming of an “inclusive” university.
While it may seem trite to parallel the “team spirit” in homecoming rallies with white students whose behaviour manifests a sense of privilege, that’s precisely what Dalhousie neighbours pointed out at the community meeting last Tuesday after the weekend homecoming riot… “The students” one gentleman said, “were white…they weren’t foreign students… they were privileged kids from here and other provinces.” They snorted cocaine in front of children, they fell drunk through windows, they urinated on lawns. Our neighbours were concerned for their safety.
After she read her letter, the Senate errupted in sustained applause. Click here to read all of Graham’s letter.
Where does this leave the matter? There’s no resolution at this time. Senators who comprise the Student Disciplinary Committee recused themselves from the discussion, and my understanding is that committee won’t convene until December to consider the case against Khan. The full Senate took no action on the issue yesterday.
As al Shaibah noted, the committee could simply decide that Khan has a charter right to Freedom of Expression that overrides all other concerns, and leave it at that.
That’d be sensible, but it doesn’t get at the issues of continued white privilege and marginalization of others that Graham illustrated in her letter.
* as originally published, I misidentified the Senate secretary.
2. Desmond Cole
Jounalist and activist Desmond Cole is in town.
Tomorrow, he’ll join El Jones and crew for a live recording of the Black Power Hour at King’s College.
I caught up with Cole yesterday and interviewed him for this week’s Examineradio podcast. I flippantly and perhaps stupidly asked Cole if he had been stopped by the cops in Halifax this week, and he said he hadn’t. But, he went on, he did have an ugly experience with Halifax police when he visited a few months ago.
Cole gave me a detailed account of that experience. I’ll have a post later this morning about it.
“A grieving Dartmouth, N.S., mother says her 37-year-old daughter’s death could have been prevented if someone had followed up with her after she missed picking up her methadone treatment,” reports Anjuli Patil for the CBC:
Laura Martin’s body was found by police Sept. 21. She had killed herself. Her mother, Theresa Babb, said police told her “flags went up” when Martin didn’t pick up her prescription.
Babb said Martin’s neighbours told her the last time they saw her was Sept. 18. That’s when she suspects Martin died.
Babb said it wasn’t until Sept. 21 that she received a call from the mental health mobile crisis intervention team asking her when she last spoke to her daughter.
Babb said too much time and too little action happened between when her daughter missed picking up her methadone and when her body was found.
“They didn’t have an issue calling me when they thought she was deceased. I don’t know why they didn’t call sooner to ask if I had heard from her,” Babb said. “If I had known that she had missed a pickup I would have gone immediately to her apartment to find out what was going on.”
4. Another dead right whale
The International Fund for Animal Welfare reported yesterday that another right whale has died, on Nashawena Island, south of Cape Cod. This marks the 16th right whale found dead this year, although scientists say more may have died but their bodies haven’t been found. The remaining population numbers about 450.
5. Tommy gun
A Halifax Regional Police press release:
Police request public’s assistance locating a collector Tommy-Gun.
Investigators with the General Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division are requesting the public’s assistance in locating a collector Thompson machine gun and magazine stolen from a Legion in Dartmouth last week.
At approximately 9:30 p.m. on October 21, police responded to a report that a collector Thompson machine gun and magazine had been stolen from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 31 located at 54 King Street sometime between October 18 at 7 p.m. and October 21 at 7 p.m. The gun was displayed in glass case and was screwed to a brick wall in the front lobby of the Legion. The approximately 90-year-old gun and magazine have been rendered inoperable and were only for display purposes.
5. Hypnotized chickens
Pamela Cameron points me to this exchange on the floor of the legislature last Thursday, where Tim Houston, the PC MLA from Pictou East, is debating the pre-Primary bill:
MR. HOUSTON: …We can talk about the Commission on Inclusive Education. I hope they do good work. Their final report is due in March, I believe it is. There’s supposed to be an interim report maybe in January. But there’s nothing on consultations yet. Where is that going to go? Now we have boards and administrators preoccupied with another study.
When I look at what’s happening in the education file, I think about all the talk about the federal tax changes and the term that is now very common in the vocabulary of Canadians, income sprinkling. There’s a lot of chat about income sprinkling. I look at this government and I see this government as in the business of effort sprinkling. They’re effort sprinklers. They don’t really want to roll up their sleeves and put the effort in on the major issues. They just sprinkle the effort around a little bit – a little bit here and a little bit there – without any progress, really.
The sad thing about that is that you have a little bit of effort sprinkling, a little bit of headline, and then you see everyone, the whole flock, come in behind. Sometimes it strikes me as a group of hypnotized chickens, Mr. Speaker, the way they operate.
The minister has said . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I’m going to ask the honourable member for Pictou East to retract the phrase “hypnotized chickens.” We’ll add that to our list of unparliamentary references.
Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it.
Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 5pm, NSCC IT Campus) — the committee got most of what it wanted for the time capsule, but for various reasons several items will be omitted: a bibliography of Halifax Explosion publications; a catalogue of contemporary works of art specific to the Explosion; maps and plans of 1917 and 2017; a local restaurant menu; and a map of flora that survived the Explosion. Couldn’t they just stick all that stuff on the internet?
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — the committee is meeting in order to decide when the committee will meet.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the committee will discuss a proposed $7,233 grant to the owners of the West-Buley House at 2146 Brunswick Street in order to approve the building’s roof — the house is attached to 2140 Brunswick Street, which has already received a similar grant, and it makes little sense to repair one roof and not the other.
The house, explains the staff report:
is valued as it is a rare example, in Nova Scotia, of the Gothic Revival style in brick masonry for terrace housing. It is also valued because of its importance to the heritage character of Brunswick Street.
Special Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Prospect Road Community Centre) — the committee will discuss the proposed expansion of the HRM Compost Facility at 61 Evergreen Place.
Public Open House – Case 20762 (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — WSP Canada wants to build a 79-unit subdivision near Lynnett Road and McIntosh Street in Spryfield.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20929 (Wednesday, 7pm, Tantallon Senior Elementary School) — W.M. Fares wants to build a bunch of stuff in Tantallon — two apartment buildings with a total of 94 units, 18 one-storey townhouses, and 11,477 square feet of commercial space fronting Peggys Cove Road.
Private & Local Bills (Tuesday, 10am, Province House) — bills to be debated:
Bill No. 30 – Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth Act
Bill No. 13 – Harmony Cemetery Company, in the County of Colchester, An Act to Incorporate
Bill No. 18 – Congregation of Notre Dame, Saint Joseph Province Dissolution Act
Bill No. 24 – Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, An Act Respecting
Bill No. 36 – Lunenburg Common Lands (2017) Act
Bill No. 41 – Digby Water Commission Act
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)
Gamification of exercise (Tuesday, 11:30am, auditorium, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Ali Arya, from Carleton University, will speak on “Games That Make You Move: Using Wearable Technology, Gamification, and Social Networks to Promote an Active Lifestyle.”
Diversity on Campus (Tuesday, 12pm, room 1009, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — a discussion on “The Equity Myth: Diversity on University Campuses,” examining how and why underrepresentation of “racialized faculty” occurs.
Forgotten Needs, Public Health in Complex Emergencies (Tuesday, 1pm, Pier 21) — Laura Archer and Ayham Alomari of the Canadian Red Cross host.
Restriction Bicategories: Two Approaches (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 219, Chase Building) — Darien DeWolf from Saint Francis-Xavier University will speak. His abstract:
In this talk, I will introduce restriction bicategories: intuitively, a restriction bicategory is a bicategory B equipped with a family of functors r : B(A,B) –> B(A,A) which encode partiality in a way reminiscent of Cockett and Lack’s restriction categories. Motivating this definition is the “restriction bicategory” of restriction bimodules. Two approaches to defining such structures will be discussed:(i) Cockett’s approach has each restriction idempotent r(f) come with a monic r(f) –> dom(f). (ii) The approach taken in my thesis is more general in that it does not require these monics. Each approach has both merit and drawbacks, which will also be discussed.
Reactionary Postmodernism (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 1107, Mona Campbell Building) — Mark Lipovetsky from the University of Colorado-Boulder will speak on “Is Reactionary Postmodernism Possible at All?”
Malnutrition in Complex Environments (Tuesday, 6pm, Rudolph P. Bratty Hall, Pier 21) — a panel discussion on “Before It’s Too Late, Addressing the Health Needs of Women and Children in Complex Emergencies.” Register here.
Guitar Recital (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Scott Macmillan, Doug Reach, and Jeff Torbert will perform.
Zombie Ion Channels (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Corrie daCosta from the University of Ottawa will speak on “Zombie Ion Channels: Why Can’t the Undead and the Living Get Along?”
Creating a Rational Public (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, University of King’s College) — Sundar Sarukkai from the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, will speak on “Science and the Rationality of the Social.”
Class Privilege: How Law Shelters Shareholders and Coddles Capitalism (Wednesday, 4:30pm, Room 225 in the building named after a grocery store) — Harry Glasbeek speaks about his book.
Jean de Florette (Wednesday, 6:30pm, the theatre named for a bank in the building named for a grocery store) — A screening of Claude Berri’s 1986 film.
In the harbour
6am: Asian Sun, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Palm Beach, Florida
6am: Vera D, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
6:45am: Viking Sky, cruise ship with up to 928 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Gaspé, Quebec
7am: Hamburg, cruise ship with up to 420 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Quebec City
7:15am: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
7:30am: Mein Schiff 6, cruise ship with up to 2,700 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney
8:45am: Regal Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,271 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
2:30pm: Hamburg, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for sea
4:30pm: Maersk Palermo, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
4:30pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: Vera D, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Mariel, Cuba
5:45pm: Viking Sky, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Boston
6:30pm: Mein Schiff 6, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for New York
6:30pm: Regal Princess, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
Also today, we’re finalizing plans for the upcoming Halifax Examiner party. Stay tuned.
An excellent opinion of free speech on campus :
” Several years ago Robert Zimmer was asked by an audience in China why the University of Chicago was associated with so many winners of the Nobel Prize — 90 in all, counting this month’s win by the behavioral economist Richard Thaler. Zimmer, the university’s president since 2006, answered that the key was a campus culture committed to “discourse, argument and lack of deference……….. If you can’t speak freely, you’ll quickly lose the ability to think clearly. Your ideas will be built on a pile of assumptions you’ve never examined for yourself and may thus be unable to defend from radical challenges. You will be unable to test an original thought for fear that it might be labeled an offensive one. You will succumb to a form of Orwellian double-think without even having the excuse of living in physical terror of doing otherwise.
That is the real crux of Zimmer’s case for free speech: Not that it’s necessary for democracy (strictly speaking, it isn’t), but because it’s our salvation from intellectual mediocrity and social ossification. In a speech in July, he addressed the notion that unfettered free speech could set back the cause of “inclusion” because it risked upsetting members of a community.
“Inclusion into what?” Zimmer wondered. “An inferior and less challenging education? One that fails to prepare students for the challenge of different ideas and the evaluation of their own assumptions? A world in which their feelings take precedence over other matters that need to be confronted?”
These are not earth-shattering questions. But they are the right ones, and they lay bare the extent to which the softer nostrums of higher ed today shortchange the intended beneficiaries.
They’re also questions not enough university presidents are asking, at least not publicly and persistently. Instead, the prevailing conceit is that nothing is really amiss, that censorship concerns are overblown, that there are always creative ways to respect free speech while remaining sensitive to all sensitivities — a balancing act so exquisite that no student need ever be insulted, and no administrator need ever take a stand.”
The Dalhousie farce : Student says something stupid. Another student complains about the stupid comments. University investigates. Media report. Older people who should know better get involved. Tempest in a teacup. Life goes on and serious business gets overlooked.
In the interests of exactitude, and as they remit me paycheques on the regular, I must point out it is in fact, the building named after the family after which a grocery store is named.
The family doesn’t have a terminal “S.” The grocery store does.
My answer would have been “says who?”
You should maybe have your lawyer check into the recording thing. Do they try to forbid photographs too? I’m not sure they can stop you any more than a municipality can stop you, since they are a public body. Either the meeting is open or it is not. You should be able not only to record audio as an aide memoire (as the courts here in NB call it) but to play on your podcast and record video for this page or your Facebook page if you so desire.
Anyone who wanted to record audio could just put the recorder/phone on record and slip it into a pocket. It makes Dal look less than transparent. It doesn’t surprise me that they lurch from one crisis to another. Their default seems to be to close ranks and fall back on process and procedure. If they weren’t so stuck in the past, they might consider live streaming the meetings themselves on the university webpage or on Facebook Live. God forbid people might see and hear what is going on. It might affect alumni donations.
I enjoy hearing the articulate Desmond Cole speak and I look forward to both those podcasts.
Tim Houston has a valid point. I’ve been waiting very impatiently for the consultations on inclusive education, because I have some things I’d like to say to them.
Did I read that footnote correctly? Are you founding a political party? Hoooo boy.