A jaw-dropper from York University in Toronto.
After refusing to honour a male student’s request to be separated from his female classmates for religious reasons, a York University professor has found himself at odds with administrators who assert he broke their “obligation to accommodate.”
There’s an obligation to accommodate a male student’s request to be “separated” from female students? Are you fucking kidding me?
Do these administrators not realize where this goes? It goes back to what we’ve been struggling to escape from for centuries. Men getting “separation” from women means women are imprisoned in seclusion, purdah, the harem, the kitchen. It is not something that should be “accommodated” in a university or anywhere else public. (Except a church or mosque or temple? No, actually, not except those. If women don’t want to be separated, then no, I don’t think male requests for separation should be “accommodated.” But I get that that’s usually not something for outsiders to mess with [unless perhaps the women ask them to]. But on principle? No. No, I don’t think such requests should be accommodated, even in religious buildings.)
The professor ran the student’s initial memo past a Judaic scholar and two Islamic scholars, all of whom were puzzled by the request.
The Judaic scholar found no problem with an Orthodox Jew attending a co-ed group session. One of the Islamic scholars, in turn, declared simply, “unless he is asked to be physical with a female student, which I assume he isn’t, there is absolutely no justification for not interacting with females in public space.”
Mr. Grayson’s colleagues appeared to agree. At an October departmental meeting they passed a resolution forbidding any religious accommodations that contributed to the “marginalizations of other students, faculty or teaching assistants.”
And the student backed off. Grayson said the student was a reasonable guy. All was copacetic…except not quite.
Nevertheless, the rejection incensed university brass. According to Mr. Grayson, on October 18, he received a letter from the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies ordering him to accommodate the student’s wishes.
As per documents provided by the professor, one of the keystones of the Dean’s position is the assertion that allowing the student to opt out of female interaction would not affect the “experience of other students in the class”—provided the professor kept quiet about it.
Oh yeah? So of course Grayson, being a sociologist, surveyed his female students, who saw the matter rather differently.
The response confirmed his suspicions. Female students in particular reacted with outrage and even threats of legal action.
“What if the male student asked that the women be seated at the back of the class or on the other side of a partition so that he would not have to see them?” wrote one.
What if a white student requested separation from non-white students? The parallel is obvious enough, except apparently to the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University…which is a pretty shocking state of affairs. “Liberal” Arts? Really? You sure about that?
The Dean dismissed the November survey, saying he was not “persuaded that other students’ political views on the subject are either a relevant or an appropriate consideration.”
“I am unpersuaded that it is even arguable that the non-participation of this one male student in group work affects in any way any other student’s human rights,” he wrote.
As York’s winter semester kicks off, said Mr. Grayson, the order is still standing.
“There’s been no reversal of position,” he said.
The Facebook page Separate is never equal urges writing to the Dean.
Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies of York University Martin Singer ordered Professor Paul Grayson to “accommodate” the wishes of a student who requested to be separated from his female classmates for religious reasons.
Dean Singer said that allowing the student to opt out of female interaction would not affect the “experience of other students in the class”—provided the Professor Grayson kept quiet about it. In an October 18 email, the Dean specifically told Prof Grayson that if he was worried about the “course experience of our female students” he would make sure they “are not made aware of the accommodation.”
This is simply outrageous. The issue has not been resolved yet, so please email Dean Singer to tell him about our experience with gender segregation in the UK, how it affects vulnerable students and the huge reputational damage Universities UK had for condoning gender segregation.
You can also tweet here: https://twitter.com/YorkUnews
You know your duty.
Update: there is a petition to sign. Well done Kiran Opal for creating it. Thank you Kausik for pointing it out.