When Does Avoiding Offending Others In The University Classroom Become Censorship? An Opening Statement For A Discussion, Laurentian University Senate, 17 May 2016

September 2016

Challenging the validity of ideas and beliefs as well as thinking critically about them has been a central thrust of academia. That someone has proposed a contention or explanation does not necessarily make it correct. We have a responsibility to ascertain the actual causes and explanations of phenomena. Some people call this the pursuit of truth. However, university classrooms are becoming arenas for propaganda and political motives. If one does not comply with this politic, and a student or administrator feels offended, one is censored by removal or the threat of removal.

For example, many people believe human activity has been the exclusive cause of global warming. Yet there is clear evidence that the major contributors are changes in solar and geomagnetic activity. If you suggest this alternative, some people feel offended. You are called a “liar” or a “denier.”

Gender differences are apparent by observation. There are more than two dozen regions within the human brain that exhibit sexual dimorphism. Yet when the behavioral ramifications of these structures are pursued and the potential differences between sexes are considered some people are offended. The thinker is called a “sexist”.

Some groups of people attribute most of their current cultural problems to imposed programs from other cultures that arrived after them in the distant past. There are terms such as “trans- generational” trauma and “trigger stimuli” to explain the behavior. When data are given that other children who grew up in orphanages and foundling homes during the same era also showed similar problems, the comment is considered offensive to some groups. In fact, the critical thinker may be accused of being a “racist.”

There are some people who believe their sexuality is different from what their biology would suggest. When alternative explanations for being “complex-spirited” or some blend of sexes is offered, some people are offended. If you suggest we could explore the genetic mechanisms behind sexuality, you may be called a “homophobe.”

In other words, the traditional methods by which academicians have solved complex problems, solutions that have allowed our species to adapt and to discover, are now considered offensive because they challenge the validity of beliefs and political motivations. So do we draw the line in the classroom against censorship, or do we become petrified professors who dare not challenge the politically sacred?