Commentary  Letters

Choose Life or choose censorship?

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had numerous close friends approach me and say “Can you believe SSMU granted club status to Choose Life!?” And when I say, “That’s great!” they seem especially appalled that I, a women’s studies student, could possibly support the existence of such a club – and I do so for two reasons.

First of all, there seems to be a popular misconception that the pro-life campaign is fully synonymous with an anti-abortion campaign. In correspondence I had with a member of Choose Life to find out what the club actually stands for (as opposed to what we popularly believe they stand for), she cited Feminists for Life, who “argue that we, as a society, have failed to meet the needs of women. Rather than provide a woman with the resources she needs to raise a child, we accept that she must instead ‘choose’ to end her child’s life. And we call it free choice.” For this reason, I believe there is a significant distinction between anti-abortion (an outcome) and choosing life (a process).

Secondly, there seems to be a profound sense of horror that at McGill, a campus filled with such “empowered” women, a group like Choose Life need exist. Clearly, if there were no demand for one, they would not have met the SSMU criteria for club status.

If there’s one thing about feminism I’ve learned in my four years of women’s studies, it is that censorship is a tactic to exercise moral authority over movements and issues deemed “indecent” or “perverse” in the eyes of society (society being McGill in this case). Just because I personally don’t identify with a club or support its ideology or its philosophies are not justifications for condemning it to silence.

I congratulate SSMU for allowing a conservative feminist group to enter the campus fold, and I hope that the debate on gender-related issues does not fizzle out once this “scandal” over granting Choose Life’s club status is over. This is not a step backward. By granting voice to more diverse feminist perspectives, I believe this will help to build more solidarity within the feminist movement, rather than polarize it.

Joan Christiansen

U3 Honours IDS and Women’s Studies

Other options for possible Choose Life cash

Re: “Choose Life becomes full-status club” | News | February 16

After reading about the recent recognition of Choose Life as a full-status SSMU club, I cannot help but wonder: does anybody else find this tremendously disturbing?

This issue upsets me for two reasons: firstly, my already-fragile respect for SSMU as an effective organization grounded in representative and transparent government has been fractured. Secondly – and more importantly – my confidence that the respect for women and women’s issues has finally been widely accepted, at least in the context of McGill University, has also been shattered.

After staging an insensitive and aggressive demonstration of anti-abortionist views in the central locale of the Y-intersection, Choose Life has been accepted as a SSMU club with full status. This means that, in addition to other privileges, a small group of self-righteous individuals will now likely benefit from a portion of my student fees. This is a shame, considering all the other things SSMU could do with said money:

Grant full-status to other, less polarizing club initiatives;

Keep it and dole it out to existing clubs and services that are more representative of the interests of McGill students;

Streamline the General Assembly process by eliminating bullshit Star Trek motions and instead encourage debate on such issues as the apparent dangers for women who engage in sexual intercourse; or

Better publicize under-the-radar events like SSMU Council meetings – especially those that invite average students to discuss the endorsement of backpedaling on decades of advances in women’s rights, or latent shaming of men and women who have been affected by abortion.

I am curious as to what, exactly, the Choose Life club plans to do with this new status of theirs. Perhaps a second display of fetuses will be erected, or – god forbid – students crossing the Milton gates will be bothered with graphic informational pamphlets. Either way, the underlying message would be one that points fingers specifically at women for the effects of their contraceptive decisions. For all of our enlightened philosophical discussions, astounding GPA scores, and elitist self-congratulations, have we McGill students not yet come to recognize when an act is rooted in the seemingly archaic subjugation of women? Worse even, we not only allow such acts to happen, but we grant them legitimacy in the form of a full-status club, clothed in the overused and misconstrued notion of “freedom of speech.”

Natalie Cross

U2 Honours Political Science & Communications

Dude, that really wasn’t my point

Re: “Rankings don’t attract students” | Letters | February 19

Oh young Nachamkin, I’m sad to see that you entirely misunderstood the purpose and content of my letter. My words have been taken out of context and re-written for the superordinate purpose of bashing the university ranking system. My letter was intended to address the McGill community, both students and administration, to communicate the feelings of many students who value their right to interdisciplinary learning.

I’ll be the first to admit, I hate those “fallaciously pretentious T-shirts,” claiming McGill to be the Harvard of the north. But I’ve also come to realize that I attend an institution that, as I stated in my letter, has proclaimed itself to be of the same calibre. Thus, it only makes sense for me to draw the comparison to Harvard, which one cannot deny draws some of the best and brightest from around the world.

But let’s not stray too far from the point. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the use of this analogy, what is at stake here is of far greater consequence to students at McGill than a faulty status marker.

Instead of moving to impeach the president of a student association, your efforts would be better suited to contributing something of value to the debate over interdisciplinary studies.

Aviva Friedman

U3 Humanistic Studies

Humanistic Studies Students’ Association President

Emma Gray

U3 Sociology

Freedom is good, dirty looks are better

Re: “Campus is no place to limit choice” | Editorial | February 19

In response to the criticism of Choose Life’s club status in the most recent issue of The Daily: perhaps it’s just my American upbringing talking, but freedom of expression to me is invaluable. I think everyone deserves to have their opinions acknowledged, if their intentions aren’t hateful.

Though I am resolutely pro-choice and have little respect for the goals of Choose Life, I have great respect for their right to be recognized by their peers on campus. Maybe someone will someday start a Choose Traditional Marriage club. As a gay student, I say more power to them.

McGill students strive to make our campus a tolerant place, and I think that should include unpopular views like those of Choose Life. If I don’t like them, I’m not going to go after their club status; I’d rather exercise my own freedom of expression and give them dirty looks as I walk by their table. That’s the real way to do things!

John Carroll

U1 Economics

Celebrating geekdom’s ultra un-self-awareness

Reading the Geek Issue (February 19), I was struck by the fact that the cover design and several of the articles suggested that we can celebrate geeks by showing how geekiness is the new cool. To me, this approach is misguided, and it risks further marginalizing truly geeky people.

Geeks can be sweet, fun, smart, entertaining, and more good things besides, but the geek-identity is stolen from them when the trappings of geekdom are transmuted into just another source of social cachet. Unlike the hipsters who appropriate retro geek fashion as part of their high-maintenance ultra-self-aware social posturing, true geeks are indifferent to fashion and other arbitrary markers of prestige.

At the heart of geekdom is an unbridled enthusiasm and earnestness about one’s interests combined with an instinctive lack of image-consciousness. These qualities deserve to be celebrated for what they are, but – let’s face it – they’ll always be a little un-cool.

Avi Craimer

PhD III Philosophy

The Curious Case of Cornet’s Confidentiality

Re: “Staff concerns brought to forefront at Town Hall” | News | February 12

This is in regards to the articles by Thomas Quail in the February 10 issue of The Tribune and by Courtney Graham in February 12’s Daily. This same issue was brought up in The Gazette on the same day.

A McGill administrator received upward of $1-million (including severance) for a year and half of work; another was paid $500,000 per year. What I find particularly troubling about all of this is the notion of the confidentiality clause.

To me, this appears to be a means of McGill to buy its way out of any accountability for any wrongdoing it may have committed. Specifically, I am talking about the situation of Dr. Norman Cornet. Dr. Cornet was let go from McGill and his situation at the moment is incredibly difficult, to say the least.

McGill, however, has refused any sort of settlement with Dr. Cornet unless he signs a confidentiality agreement, thereby keeping its misdeeds private. Dr. Cornet deserves his settlement, but he also deserves to have his case heard and made public.

By refusing to accept responsibility and insisting on a confidentiality agreement, McGill is trying to hide and avoid any negative attention that may come its way, regardless of the ethics and morality involved.

Aly Jivraj

BA ‘07 (IDS)