Justin Aubin sat in his first year St. Thomas University religious studies class, voiced his religious beliefs and was yelled at by his professor for “hating gays.” He maintains that he simply believes what’s in the Bible and believes that homosexuality is wrong. Aubin, the son of a pastor, says he doesn’t hate gays or anything of the sort. He simply voiced his opinion and his religious belief. He says because it didn’t fit the Liberal point of view it caused him to be singled out and embarrassed.
“You can’t say that sort of thing. I mean, I got yelled at for saying what I believe,” says Aubin.
“Doesn’t seem to me like that’s very liberal, I’m not allowed to say what I believe out loud because it’s not what everyone else is saying.”
Aubin has since graduated with a degree in criminology, but the experience has stayed with him.
“The prof, she did apologize for how she reacted after,” says Aubin.
The apology came outside of the classroom, in contrast to the tongue-lashing Aubin she delivered in front of the class.
“The weirdest part of it is that it was a religious studies class,” Aubin says. “I got yelled at for being religious. The class erupted too, kinda jumped on the bandwagon against me.”
“I wasn’t asked to leave the class, but I almost thought I should have.”
St. Thomas makes no bones about being a liberal institution. But is it too liberal? Are we at the point where anything deemed not liberal is automatically rejected?
If you were to hit all the checks, a student at STU would be expected to be fully accepting of the gay community, reject shale gas, root for democrats, vote NDP or liberal (never conservative) love Obama, give abortion a thumbs up, and be saving up for a hybrid car.
It’s a point of national pride that Canada sells itself as a nation accepting of all beliefs and ideas so as long as they do not incite hate, or cause harm to others. It seems at least in Aubin’s case that has not always been true at St. Thomas.
If thoughts and ideas are rejected simply because they are not in-line with the popular thought at STU then there exists the danger of a herd mentality.
Dr. Colm Kelly is a professor of sociology at St. Thomas. He’s taught an upper-year seminar course examining the role of the university and those that exist within its structures. He says while he personally doesn’t think St. Thomas is too liberal, he says there is always the danger of ‘one way thinking.’
“There can be excesses and it’s not terribly healthy to subscribe to a thought process simply because it exists,” says Kelly. “I don’t really think that’s the case at STU and I’ve never experienced anything like that here, but I know it’s been an issue elsewhere.”
Kelly points to some schools in the United States that have suffered from issues of subscribing to one-track mentalities.
“There have been speech codes implemented on campus,” Kelly explains. “They have rules that restrict sexist language. A lot of it boils down to political correctness in part.”
While many my instinctively associate the restriction of free-speech to be a very right wing thing, instances such as these show it’s an issue that isn’t limited to one side of the political spectrum.
“There is the idea of a liberal orthodoxy that exists in St. Thomas,” says Kelly. “It’s argued that it exists in academia in general.”
Kelly suggests the idea that STU leans to the left comes from professors, despite its conservative, Catholic roots.
“At a university such as STU, most of the professors are drawn to that field are left of center,” says Kelly. “There is a preponderance of professors that are democratic and that’s the type of people that are drawn to the job.”
“It’s not restricted to just liberals. In both directions there can be excesses.”
The contrasting view is that the question of something being “too liberal,” is in fact a conservative critic and not an actual concern. In 1995 John K. Wilson published ‘The Myth of Political Correctness.” The argument is that the crisis of overly liberal thinking is mostly a manufactured concern by Conservatives in the early ‘90s and used to battle leftists intimidation in universities throughout the world.
It’s a counter argument that purposes that there is simply no actual argument.
While aspects of political correctness may not be the most outstanding aspect here at STU, there are plenty of other issues to consider. Do all STU students feel comfortable voicing exactly what they think or do they hold back the opinions simply to keep the peace?
Do the outnumbered males in a women’s studies course actually feel 100 per cent safe in voicing their true feelings despite their classmates and professors?
Do students pass on applying for certain scholarships based on the fact they think they’re not ethnic enough? Or do they sometimes feel too ethnic?
Do religious students feel okay with voicing their point of views, even though they may clash with the status quo?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then a case could be made that St. Thomas’ liberalness has pushed to the point where instead of ‘liberating and expanding young minds’ as it markets, it can restrict them, freedom of speech, and opinions.
“The whole thing didn’t change my opinion or my Christian point of view,” says Aubin of his clash of ideals. “It surprised me quite a bit, but it didn’t change my opinion one way or another.”
“Truthfully I’d probably still go back to STU,” he says. “Too liberal or not, it was still a good experience.”
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