For years, there has been a debate about free speech in universities amid woke supporters of “diversity, equity and inclusion” ideology claiming that heterodox ideas and viewpoints make students feel “unsafe.”
The woke claim that speech is violence and that academic freedom cannot include “harmful and pedagogically unjustified language.” Campuses ought to be safe spaces, they argue, where students are shielded from perspectives that may trigger “microaggressions” and trauma.
More often than not, universities have aligned themselves with the woke, facilitating of campus spaces where “we do not debate others’ life experiences,” mandating the use of preferred pronouns, including “they/them,” “ze/zir,” “xe/xir,” and “e/em,” and encouraging professors to issue “trigger warnings” before presenting “potentially disturbing content.”
Individuals who’ve dared to challenge the woke’s “safe space” doctrine have meanwhile faced often successful cancellation campaigns.
Canadian professors and lecturers have been investigated, reprimanded, suspended and even fired amid believing in biological sex, using the n-word in an academic context, opposing affirmative action, and criticizing Indigenization.
Events featuring heterodox speakers have also been shut down in order to preserve “safe spaces” – including, a panel on “the stifling of free speech on university campuses” at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson).
Then, Oct. 7 happened, with Hamas committing the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. It triggered an alarming wave of antisemitism in the West. Father than stand in solidarity with Jews on and off campus, the woke leaned into its hatred of Israel.
Woke Canadian academics voiced support for Palestinian “anti-colonial resistance,” while York University’s student unions said the attacks against “so-called Israel” were “justified and necessary.” They also shared calls for intifada (armed rebellion). At Concordia University, a woman who uses “they/them” pronouns was accused of calling someone else a “k*ke,” an antisemitic slur.
The same wokists who silence speakers they disagree with defended their anti-Israel actions, which sometimes included support for the genocide of Jews, as “free speech.” They also accused universities of suppressing academic freedom when they finally took some action against the most blatant acts of campus antisemitism.
Many were quick to point out the obvious hypocrisy and double standard. But, as philosophy professor and former Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship president Mark Mercer told me, these different standards are a key part of the woke’s ideology.
“They distinguish between the equity deserving groups and the rest of us. And they’re happy to have rules that apply to those outside these groups and rules that apply to those within these groups,” he said.
“They want freedom of expression for causes that are socially progressive in their minds, the ones that aid the protected groups and the equity deserving groups.”
Basically, the woke see everyone as either oppressor and oppressed – a staple of Marxism – and use intersectionality, a theory which states that “systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination ‘intersect’ to create unique dynamics and effects,” to determine if one is an oppressor or an oppressed.
A major issue with this intersectional ideology is the way that it views Jews.
Don’t take my word for it. A recent Harvard-Harris poll revealed 67% of people aged 18-24 agree that “Jews as a class are oppressors and should be treated as oppressors.” Some members of the woke class have also pushed the notion of “Jewish privilege,” accusing Jews of being “white passing.”
The woke’s ideology is repulsive, and plays into antisemitic stereotypes – something some members of the Jewish community have warned about for years.
These intersectional double standards disqualify the woke’s argument that academic freedom must be sacrificed to protect the mere feelings of certain students.
Hence, it’s time for a reckoning.
Universities cannot be places where Marxist ideology determines whether one group faces arbitrary censorship or gets the absolute right to say whatever it wants – including appalling calls for genocide.
They must instead be neutral institutions that embrace the Chicago Principles that allow for “the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn” while explicitly excluding language that violates the law, as well as speech that is defamatory or “constitutes a genuine threat or harassment.”