Conversation cops at Queen’s

22 Nov

Hardly a day passes these days without Queens’ University screwing something new up.  Today I got an email from the school (I am an alumni)  explaining that they hadn’t instituted a policy of deploying thought police onto the campus.  ‘Thought police’?  That was the first I heard of it so I googled the story and got this from The Globe:

The Kingston university has hired student facilitators to step in when they overhear homophobic slurs, remarks bashing women or racially tinged insults, along with an array of other language that could be deemed offensive.

That means tête-à-têtes in the residence hallways may no longer be just between friends.

“If people are having a conversation with offensive content and they’re doing it loud enough for a third person to hear it … it’s not private,” said Jason Laker, dean of student affairs at Queen’s.

The purpose of the University’s email was to counter the belief that this program was Soviet in style but I don’t buy it.   The whole premise seems very dubious and I am glad not to be a student now.  But not only is this a dumb idea, it also appears to be poorly executed.  According to Patricia Gurin, one of the founders of the concept:

“It takes a lot of skill to do this work,”…

She said that facilitators who haven’t been trained properly could end up reinforcing defence mechanisms of privileged students.

But not to worry because:

The Queen’s facilitators went through an intensive 11-day training course that touched on a variety of social issues and possible scenarios.

That is ridiculous.  How is 11 days of training going to qualify someone to make these kinds of delicate decisions?  

This is the second time I’ve wondered about the judgement of the school in the last week.  Earlier it was announced that the school had cancelled homecoming, a tradition that has existed for decades. 

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