UBC SOCIAL JUSTICE REFORM MANIFESTO
Friday, September 8th, 2017
Last Updated: Mar. 3rd, 2018
Dear Member of the UBC Community:
Last summer I was engaged in free speech and social justice movement reform activism at UBC. I personally sent over 1,000 protest emails around UBC, and hand delivered over 2,000 protest letters all the way from Anthropology & Sociology in the north of campus to the UBC Farm in the south (including around 200 I individually addressed and shipped to UBC Okanagan). The events around my activism have been covered in a variety of media, including papers in Western Canada, the Globe & Mail, and CBC Radio:
Vancouver Sun. Douglas Todd: Top moral thinkers defend free speech in UBC clash
(For reference, relating to article above)
Letter by UBC Dean of Arts Gage Averill:
Letter by UBC Professor of Philosophy Dr. Paul Russell
Paper Protest Letter (Later Version, Majority of Letters)
Paper Protest Letter (Earlier Version, Minority of Letters)
L'heure du monde (ICI Radio Canada): Liberté d'expression sur les campus à Vancouver - Dominique Arnoldi (18 h 05)
The most important document to explain what I am doing is by Dr. Jonathan Haidt (NYU): “Why Universities Must Choose One Telos: Truth or Social Justice”. https://heterodoxacademy.org/2016/10/21/one-telos-truth-or-social-justice/ I am concerned about protecting free speech and improving viewpoint diversity at UBC. I do not think the administration is doing enough to protect students from social justice activist bullying, and to protect the academic freedoms of students and professors, as well as to promote viewpoint diversity on campus. So, I have been trying to sound the alarm about this, in order to protect students, to keep them safe, and to improve conditions at UBC. The purpose of my protest emails and letters is to provide the UBC community with the vocabulary to begin a dialogue to end the campus culture wars. The great majority of professors, staff and students whom I’ve met during my campaigns seem supportive, including women and minorities. I am not against the concept of social justice, but I think the current form of the social justice movement is problematic and unsustainable. While I am still developing my ideas, I would like to share some suggestions, for discussion, on social justice movement reform based on my research and experiences at UBC. If you have any thoughts or feelings about my campaigns or ideas, especially involving your personal experiences, I encourage you to contact the administration and add your voice to the campus dialogue.
President Santa J. Ono
Neil Guppy, Senior Advisor to the Provosts, Academic Freedom
Philosophy, 4th year
UBC SOCIAL JUSTICE REFORM MANIFESTO
(1) Claims of the social justice movement must be based more rigorously on data. For example, if it is claimed that we live in a ‘rape culture’, it is reasonable to request data supporting this claim, before one is ethically required to believe it. Nobody deserves to be called a ‘rape apologist’ simply for asking for evidence of a claim about society. In a powerful speech at Brown University, rape survivor and individualist feminist Wendy McElroy takes a strong position on this: “A key reason why I find no evidence for systemic rape culture, only evidence of rapes committed by individuals, is because the data doesn’t exist.” (Quote after 7:30 in video). McElroy also quotes a 2014 report from RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization): “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small [percentage] of the community, to commit a violent crime”.
Note: Wendy McElroy has posted this Manifesto on her personal site:
(2) The social justice movement must become more of a research/knowledge translation pathway for social science results, in areas of gender, race, sexuality and social justice. The movement must engage in more productive dialogue with other fields, e.g. economics. Making misleading and inaccurate claims about the gender wage gap size, and the reasons for it, must end. For instance, Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute points out: “[No] competent labour economist takes the 23-cent wage gap injustice claim seriously. There was an analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers commissioned by the [U.S.] Department of Labour; what they found is that the so-called wage gap is mostly, perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make...” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58arQIr882w Also, positions of the social justice movement need to be more responsive to research in the social and natural sciences generally, including e.g. concepts/findings in evolutionary psychology.
(3) Social justice activists must learn how to have more tolerant dialogue with people who do not share their worldview. The current form of the movement is based too much on outrage culture and personal attacks. Especially at University, we should encourage dialogue and open exchange of ideas, not vitriol, mobbing and censorship. Activists should consider compassion a matter of constant practice, not simply something selective based on allyship, or just a matter of rhetoric.
(4) The social justice movement must be more internationalized, with more international and overseas missions for students in social justice programs, and for other social justice workers. North American college campuses are generally very liberal and egalitarian places, but there are many serious injustices happening around the world which could benefit from the passionate mission work of social justice student activists.
(5) More men’s issues content must be added to the social justice narrative and curriculums. This is a necessary step in making the social justice movement truly equitable and socially just. Neglect of male perspectives and issues by the movement is social injustice.
These notes are still rough, but I provide them to promote dialogue here at UBC. No doubt some will miss the point entirely and resort to further personal attacks against me, but I am not afraid anymore. I want to promote dialogue about free speech and social justice movement reform at UBC. However implausible, perhaps, my dream outcome is that UBC becomes the location of a renaissance in social justice culture, and our University becomes the premier centre of a new phase in the movement. More modestly, I hope we can at least have discussions about these and other ideas for social justice movement reform.
BELOW IS A COPY OF MY SUBMISSION TO THE PUBLIC CALL FOR FEEDBACK ON THE UBC FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION STATEMENT.
SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED, BUT DRAFTING CONTINUES...
To Whom It May Concern:
I have been deeply involved at UBC, pushing for freer speech on campus, and I have done a lot of reading, thinking, and talking with others about this during the past year. I don`t think it is an exaggeration to say that I have been one of the most prominent free speech student activists at UBC. This article ran in the Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, and the Province:
I was also recently interviewed by the CBC, and have been mentioned in the Globe & Mail in relation to the free speech situation at UBC. There is only one statement I would add to this draft. I think that a statement on freedom of expression needs to speak about the ultimate purpose of a university, because that is the real matter at stake in the campus culture wars. Discussing this explicitly is a way to help resolve the conflicts. I would add:
'The highest purpose of a University is to seek truth, in all its forms, and UBC believes that when we do this together, respectfully, it benefits us all.'
This gives a good balance between truth seeking and social justice seeking: I am a strong believer that social justice is most effectively pursued when it is based on truth and evidence-based methods. It acknowledges that there are many kinds of truth, and the job here at the University is to pursue them all and see how they fit together into a coherent, increasingly clear vision of reality.
The reason to name a 'highest purpose' is because we need a way to resolve conflicts, when truth seeking and social justice aims come into conflict. These ideas are clarified in the document by Dr. Jonathan Haidt (NYU): 'Why Universities Must Choose One Telos: Truth or Social Justice'. I believe this document is essential to read while drafting this statement. I cannot recommend strongly enough that committee members read this document:
My personal preference would be for UBC to adopt the Chicago Principles, though I don`t think this is achievable at this time. Regardless, if the statement does not speak about the purpose of a University, and define truth-seeking as the highest purpose (or equivalent words), I will question its ability to effectively resolve the issues we are facing at UBC, because it will not address the real issue.
UBC Philosophy, 4th year
NEWS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION DRAFTING:
At the Freedom of Expression Town Hall, Senior Advisor to the Provosts, Academic Freedom, Prof. Neil Guppy, acknowledged that my activism "sparked a lot of the discussion" leading to the Freedom of Expression statement process at UBC.
Twitter Screenshot, April 7, 2018, Ubyssey Coordinating Editor Jack Hauen)
Neil Guppy Quote:
Lindsay Shepherd (Wilfrid Laurier) discusses UBC Freedom of Expression Statement (according to poster, this was at Saint Mary's University, January 25, 2018, Panel Discussion on Academic Freedom)
Quote of Shepherd:
OTHER NEWS RELATED TO MY ACTIVISM:
(The emphasis in this Globe article is a bit off; it doesn't really give the right idea of what the protest letters were, as shown by the Vancouver Sun article).
Interview with comedian Mark Hughes:
"The current form of the social justice movement is problematic and unsustainable."