Standing-up For Yourself


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By Dawid Cieloszczyk, 2L (admittedly, ironically written from a chair)

Standing-up’ for what you believe in is often a daunting task, particularly in a legal setting, where conservatism and resistance to change is practically constitutional. “Sit-down and understand your place in the world”, echo the people at the helm of the vessel. Encouraged to preserve the status quo and slide comfortably into the pre-made mold, students walk along the assembly line. “It’s not my time or place to make a stir” (and not now or ever, really). But these are some of the finest minds across the country. How is it that the cashier at Zellers is more likely to carry the blazing torch of La Révolution? Do they have less to lose?

It would be trite for me to tell you that health is not only in your best interest, but the economic wellbeing of the country. We may not agree on morality, religion, or foreign policy, but we can certainly all agree with the inherent and extrinsic value of health. We jog in the rain, fill our plate with such strange substances as quinoa and buckwheats and other reindeer food, but we mindlessly plump our gluteus maximuses down for often more than half of the world’s rotation. We are addicted to sitting and we weren’t evolved for this.

Fascinatingly enough, sitting for 6 or 8 hours a day has devastating long-term effects on our bodies and minds, whether we exercise or not. In the legal profession of course, one can expect to become an artisan-sitter without moving a muscle except for one’s heart, maybe. There are some staggering statistics out there, and the bottom line is this: our mortality rate increases substantially, we burn fewer calories and grow much fatter, and we actually think less efficiently. Sadly, exercise does not mitigate these effects.

With standing desks, employees were found to be up to 10% more productive in some studies. It seems beyond reason that we could increase productivity, profitability, and induce significant health benefits with such a simple transition. If you use the term capitalist to label yourself, you must follow your reason to the rational conclusion here. If you exercise and eat healthily, you might as well stop, unless you start standing too.

While the research is there, and the benefits are fairly clear, the only question remaining is what impediment exists in attaining such glorious bounty? Other than those who sip from the cup-of-no-concerns, there are many who are genuinely alarmed, but are afraid to be too stirring, too subversive, because only futuristic renegades stand at their tables tapping away on their keyboards. So holier-than-thou, those wretched humans who act so morally and physically superior!

The battle for your health is not meek, and sometimes a sense of apathy may overcome, particularly when you realize that your entire life habits are malformed, and when there is a culture of not caring or otherwise – trust me, self-awareness is crippling. For crying out loud, we don’t even sit on toilets correctly, but we’ll leave that for another day. Indeed, life is not permanent either, and it’s the quality of years that matter. However, if this is true, health is the only thing that we have; it is the only thing that can ensure a good life, one of quality. Why fall into the erroneous mode of reasoning that ‘literally everything will kill you, so you might as well start degrading your earthly temple’?

Are we a profession of advocates and negotiators who stand above the violent tides of adversity to defend our clients, and then cower in fear at the prospect of advocating for ourselves, for the good of the profession as a whole? What a devastating irony that would be.

Links for some research:

https://www.techinasia.com/health-benefits-standing-desks-separating-hype-reality/

http://blog.pickcrew.com/why-i-killed-my-standing-desk/ (a contrary opinion to consider)

DIY Standing Desks:

http://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html

http://www.bobvila.com/articles/diy-standing-desks/

Disputing the Defense of the Dalhousie Dentistry Students

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By Kaja Marinic, 2L

On January 30th, Scott van Dyk argued in the Legal Eye that Dalhousie University was wrong to punish the notorious 13 dentistry students who were members of a Facebook group littered with misogynistic posts. Specifically, he said that:

“[T]he act of punishing these students at all violates our ideas of free expression.”

“The appropriate response by Dalhousie isn’t to punish or to ‘rehabilitate.’ It’s to let these students simply be known as the assholes that made inappropriate jokes.”

In our own little Peter A. Allard Facebook groups, disagreement and drama ensued. When challenged on the need for institutions to take sexism seriously by creating real consequences, Scott added in a comment that:

“No sanction from a public authority is needed. In today’s age, not only are vile people socially ostracized, but markets punish those individuals and their careers too […] At no point did I argue that speech shouldn’t have consequences.

I think this viewpoint is dangerous. I want to examine why it is important for Dalhousie to take a firm stance against the kind of misogynistic speech at issue. A “firm stance” here entails taking punitive measures against the harassers, since a merely symbolic stance would be entirely toothless as a deterrent and would fail to address the concerns of the targeted women, the student community, and the public at large.

Some Facts for Context

The dentistry students have not been expelled. They are attending their classes remotely and have had their clinical privileges suspended for now, which could affect their ability to graduate if the suspensions stick. Dalhousie has announced that it has created an “independent task force” to investigate the matter further and have set up a “restorative justice” process involving the thirteen men and several women who were targeted or affected. There is ongoing controversy over the extent to which each member of the group participated in the problematic posts and whether or not they should be punished equally.

The posts at issue included a poll about “hate-fucking” particular classmates, comments denigrating women’s professional aptitudes, and multiple “jokes” specifically about raping women (after drugging them with chloroform, or after assaulting them to the point of unconsciousness, or in order to “convert” lesbians “into productive members of society”).

There are ongoing debates as to whether the punishments are too harsh or not harsh enough (as some think the suspensions will be lifted after “restoring” justice). I am not primarily interested in defending the merits of one particular punishment over another, but rather in upending the idea that there should be no (or hardly any) institutional consequences for people who make such misogynistic comments “in private” or as “jokes.”

Freedom of Expression

Scott argues that punishing people for offensive speech violates our societal commitment to “free speech.” He apparently finds it self-evident that protecting offensive speech is inherently valuable regardless of circumstances, consequences, or context. But context changes everything here.

Firstly: We know that even when one’s legal right to free speech is being considered—as a negative right against restriction by governmental actors—the right to freedom of expression is neither absolute nor always valuable. The core of the right that makes it generally valuable at all, according to the courts, is its tendency to instrumentally serve truth, self-fulfillment, and democracy. When speech does not promote those purposes, your right to express it might be justifiably infringed in the service of others’ interests in a free and democratic society. The more that speech deviates from these purposes or even actively undermines them, the easier it is to justify infringement. We have laws against hate speech and sexual harassment on this basis.

Secondly: Dalhousie is not a governmental actor but, in this case, a professional dentistry school. People are not entitled to become dentists. If students endanger the public’s trust in a profession involving a fiduciary relationship, their behaviour should be deterred. If students threaten and harass other students in their classes, the university should punish them and ensure a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment for those targeted. Thus, the university is within its rights to punish its students for offensive speech of this nature.

But, to be charitable to Scott’s stance, this argument isn’t really about legal entitlement to speech but rather the normative value of optimizing freedom of speech whenever we can. We tend to value the promotion of free speech even in institutions that are not bound by the Charter, especially in academic institutions, because we want to protect the accessibility of the “marketplace of ideas.” So while the university can punish these students if it wants to, and these students are not legally entitled to become misogynistic dentists, this does not settle the debate about whether Dalhousie should punish students for offensive speech.

Here’s why Dalhousie should punish them:

We need to eradicate sexism and sexual harassment. It hardly needs to be said that sexism and sexual harassment are incredibly unjust, harmful, and pervasive. They have been particularly difficult to eradicate in professional contexts that have for so long been exclusively or predominantly male. The normalization and internalization of sexist biases, however subconsciously held or seemingly minor, leads to women being driven out of the profession, being undervalued in their roles, losing employment and promotion prospects, enduring countless injustices, being undermined in other facets of their life and broader society, and facing chronic psychological and emotional stress. If we are to eradicate systemic barriers to gender equality in professional contexts, professional and academic institutions cannot casually tolerate threatening, discriminatory speech or sexual harassment. Concrete, impactful consequences for such speech are necessary for the institution to signal intolerance. Punishment is not for its own sake, to shame or otherwise exact revenge or harm upon these men because they said “offensive” things. Punishment is necessary and instrumental for setting a precedent of intolerance for discriminatory and harassing speech in order to allow women to participate fully and equally in society and in professional contexts in particular. In context, these comments are not anomalous or harmless; they are part of an indescribably immense interconnected system of gender inequality. This “Gentleman’s Club” Facebook group is just one component of a legacy of exclusionary men’s spaces.

Furthermore, it is relevant to note that in this case, in particular, the comments are not just vaguely discriminatory in the sense of unfairly suggesting that women are different or inferior. They are threatening. These comments are about taking pleasure or satisfaction in the thought of treating women and their bodies as non-human disposable sex toys to be abused for men’s purposes. Sexual harassment often manifests in the form of such “jokes,” which harassed persons experience as barely veiled threats. Couching harassment in “jokes” is a convenient technique for harassers seeking to dodge accountability if they are ever challenged for their aggressive statements. “Joking” about violence does not lessen the impact of that violent statement, nor should it automatically shield you from accountability for it. Not only is the “joking” not an excuse, it can be an aggravating factor. It can be additionally disturbing that someone finds these things to be funny, because it might suggest that they enjoy the thought or are unable to comprehend the harmfulness or pervasiveness of a real problem. The trivialization of assault using sedatives is particularly threatening when it is coming from future medical professionals who regularly use sedatives. Dalhousie needs to take these comments seriously in order to address the legitimate safety concerns of women students and patients.

This is a context which is wholly absent from Scott’s reasoning. He clarifies in a comment on his post that his “primary reasoning” in favour of unfettered free expression “is based on an aversion to authority dictating what [his] thoughts ought or ought not to be.”

This is an entirely decontextualized concern. This is why people care about democratic free speech rights in the complete abstract—they do not want the government to burn books or suppress dissent or curtail revolutionary sentiment or enforce any kinds of rigid standards on us, the “little guys,” who are vulnerable to state oppression. But to ride on the coattails of this kind of broad abstract vision of “free speech” is incredibly disingenuous in the present context. There is no slippery slope threat of mind control here. A university is protecting some students from other students who are dehumanizing women and trivializing sexual violence. The ability of women students to fully participate in the educational context and exercise their free expression is also at stake. It is only by pointedly refusing to acknowledge that restrictions can be justified in some contexts, and are particularly justified in this context, that we can pretend there is some grand threat to democracy in punishing this speech.

As for Scott’s idea that only offensive speech needs protection, this is a misleading formulation of the issue. Some speech is “offensive” because it is so harmful that it is not worth protecting; in such cases, claiming the speech “needs protection” because it is in heightened danger of being banned completely misses the point, which is that perhaps such speech should be banned. This is the case with hate speech. There is no freestanding moral value in protecting offensive speech regardless of context, and non-offensive speech is certainly not “dull” or unimportant speech. Furthermore, it is fallacious to claim that treating different speech in different contexts differently leads to “banning all speech that is offensive to someone” or “privileging some people over others” in an “irrational” way.

Punishment Mechanisms

To suggest that we should leave punishment to the market forces and social norms of the times misunderstands the purpose of punishment, which is ensuring a standard of intolerance to promote equality. It is crucial for an institution to clearly and actively signal that discrimination is unacceptable. To lazily “assure” women that social forces will somehow organically ostracize these men is to do absolutely nothing to ensure that things change.

Leaving consequences up to social shaming betrays ignorance as to the actual prevalence and acceptance of discriminatory and harassing speech even today. There is still an unacceptably large number of people who don’t think discrimination is wrong, or know it’s wrong but don’t care about it, or just refuse to speak out about it, or refuse to acknowledge that it really happens, or just don’t realize that they or others are doing it. Furthermore, the majority of people do not actually have to engage in harassment in order for harassment to be prevalent because of repeat offenders. Many people thus still experience sexual harassment and discrimination in their working lives.

Leaving consequences to social shaming also ignores the fact that institutional changes can, over time, create a top-down shift in social norms and perceived acceptability. The increasing societal rejection of sexism has not happened magically on its own. Policies that specifically punished sexist teachers, removed sexist language from textbooks, created harassment complaint mechanisms, etc. have helped to create a culture where sexism is less normalized and thus less tolerated.

Leaving consequences to market forces also betrays an indifference as to whether those consequences actually accrue. Even if it IS profitable to discriminate—and it may still often seem profitable to discriminate—discrimination is wrong.

Conclusion

I won’t claim that Dalhousie is handling the situation with perfect procedural fairness or even with perfect motives—they would likely handle things quietly if they could, and the punishment is likely partly motivated by reputational and PR concerns.

But I do think that, now that we know what these students have said, it is important for them to face consequences. There is little to no value, but substantial harm, in allowing such speech to be totally free.

Je Suis the 13 Dalhousie Dentistry Students

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By Scott van Dyk, 2L

A crime has been committed. The perpetrators, 13 men in their fourth year of the Dalhousie Dentistry program, have been separated from their classmates and suspended from school.

Those suspensions effectively entail a number of things: it means that the wrongdoers will not be able to graduate – after each spending $130,000 in tuition alone and 4 years of their lives working towards their degrees. They will not be able to practice dentistry – individually costing them hundreds of thousands more in lost marginal salary, not to mention the personal costs of not practising their desired careers.

What crime was committed that warrants this punishment?

They told crude jokes to their friends in private.

For the unaware, these students were in a closed, 13 person Facebook group. They made a series of misogynistic jokes about women in general and some specific classmates. I’m not here to argue about proportionality (although by any analysis, the response is certainly disproportionate). In addition, analyzing whether a closed Facebook group should be considered private is essentially analyzing whether to attach a technical label. This avoids the substance of the matter. Rather, I am saying that the act of punishing these students at all violates our ideas of free expression.

It’s almost banal to say in discussions about free expression, but it warrants saying: Only offensive speech needs protection. To protect only common, trite speech reflecting majority sentiment is to remove entirely the content from the right to free expression.

In other words, if it doesn’t rankle someone, it doesn’t need protecting. It’s why no one has ever called for a ban on weather reporting, but there have been calls for bans on criticism of religious groups.

The refrain, “free speech is okay as long as it doesn’t offend others” misses the point of free expression entirely.

Freedom of expression demands a principled approach. Do-gooders always cite reasons for banning controversial speech. But here’s the thing: If by case-by-case exceptions are granted, then all speech which is offensive to someone will be banned. Only dull speech is left. Freedom of expression will have been completely neutered.

The alternative is to only grant some exceptions, but then we would be privileging some people over others. It wouldn’t be rational either. It would be based on arbitrary factors like which voices are noisiest, or who happens to be in a position of authority at the time.

Dalhousie has decided that their role is to be the arbiter of speech and humour. They will decide which groups are privileged. They will also decide what students are and aren’t allowed to say – even in the confines of their own lives. Further, they believe that students are too sensitive to hear certain speech. It’s best to have authority protect students from themselves.

The appropriate response by Dalhousie isn’t to punish or to “rehabilitate.” It’s to let these students simply be known as the assholes that made inappropriate jokes.

The attempt to chill speech with threats of formal punishment occurs at UBC too. See: appointing a “referee” at the Guile Debates. I.e. a literal arbiter of humour.

Again, if someone wants to be racist or vile in public, then simply let them be known as racist or vile people. Universities don’t need to violate principles of free expression. The students harmed themselves already.

In the recent aftermath of the Charlie Hedbo attacks, many Canadians defiantly stated “Je Suis Charlie.” They proudly said they will not be intimidated into restricting freedom of speech. Canadians are now proving they are Charlie only if they happen to agree with the speech. If they don’t agree, well… just look at what happened to the Dalhousie Dentistry students

Peter A. Allard School of Law

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By Geoff Golda, 3L

This morning for me began like any other Thursday morning. Because I don’t have class on Thursdays, I allow myself to get up a little later than usual. I putz around the apartment for a while, turn on the kettle and grind some coffee for the French press. I have a number of readings to catch up on today, but they can wait until after my morning coffee and cigarette. Indeed, they can wait until after I play a few songs on the guitar. Maybe I’ll get breakfast before delving into them. Or read some of my novel.

In truth, I’m no stranger to procrastination. That jolt of motivation in the eleventh hour has been the backbone of a good many of my scholarly achievements. This semester has been generally different thus far, though. This semester I’ve been doing my readings before classes. This semester I’ve been attending my classes. This semester is my last, and out of some sense of needing to prove something to myself or just wanting to be the best me I can be while still officially connected to Allard Hall, I’ve been doing things right for a change. No, please reserve your accolades. I really haven’t done anything yet.

For whatever reason, I’m putting as many things between myself and getting onto my readings as possible this morning. I’m procrastinating in a way which is not unfamiliar, but which is uncharacteristic of my year thus far. New Years resolutions have a way of fading as January wears on, but in fact I’d never resolved to be a better student this semester. I just started doing it. As I look out onto the wet streets and bobbing umbrellas below, I realize that there is something else which has caused me to hesitate with respect to my routine. There is somewhere else that I should be.

Yesterday, our noble LSS President Andrea Fraser alerted me to the fact that she would be giving a speech at the surprise announcement in the Franklin Lew forum today. She wouldn’t tell me what the announcement was. This frustrated me. A law school is no place for surprise announcements. We require notice, so that we can adequately respond. Notice of “a surprise” in my eyes is akin to no notice at all. I realize after placing my guitar down this morning that I’m unreasonably irked by the whole thing. Not only that, but I’m irked by the fact that others don’t seem to be similarly irked. “Free lunch,” they assure me, dismissive of my indignance. As if the virtue of a free lunch could overwhelm the most egregious injustices.

No. Today I will not sit idly by in my apartment catching up with readings while whatever surprise announcement is made. Today I will be heard. Justice be done, though free lunch be served. I dress myself, step out into the rain, board the 44, plug in my headphones, and turn on some meditative sounds so I can calmly measure my approach.

I walk into Allard Hall on a mission. It’s 11:25. That gives me 35 minutes to determine what on earth is going on here before the official announcement ceremony begins. I begin by asking a few students, none of whom seem to know for sure what is going on. There is a rumour going around that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin might be giving a speech – a most unlikely occurrence given that the Supreme Court is in session and moreover because there would be a number of people, including myself, who would have been exceptionally angry to have missed out on such an event. The more likely candidate regards a certain $30 million endowment to the law school by Peter A. Allard, and news that the law school would be renamed “Peter A. Allard School of Law”.

The gall! A surprise announcement that this man is able to throw incredible sums of money around and stick his name on whatever he likes? And we’re supposed to celebrate and be happy about this somehow? How perverse! Satisfied that this is indeed what is going on, I set about talking with students about what is about to take place. I throw a lot of choice words around, narcissist among them. One can’t just go throwing money about and expect the world to love him for it. Indeed, I will be taking my free lunch (I can’t speak to the chilli, but the pulled pork sandwiches were fantastic) and listening to what is to be said, but no, I’m not buying any of this, and no, I’m not happy about it.

Shortly before the actual speech portion of the announcement was underway, I got a moment to speak with Andrea Fraser about the whole thing. I made a number of the same comments that I had made to others that morning and managed to get in a little dig about how she, the strong minded and sceptical force of nature that she is, still somehow managed to be sucked into the whole thing. I wasn’t speaking as such in order to offend her, so much as to convey the general sense of losing faith in humanity that was welling up in my gut. If even the best of us are happy to live on our knees, well…

In any event, Ms. Fraser set to setting me straight. She told me that I had it wrong, that I shouldn’t be running my mouth as I had been, and that she’d hoped I hadn’t been spewing such non-sense around to others. I suggested she not be so hard on me, that indeed there were few among us willing to resist such gratuitous displays of extravagance, and that she might do well to take a page out of my book. That said, I agreed to hold my tongue until I heard what the Dean, herself, and Mr. Allard had to say.

Dean Mary Anne Bobinski stepped up to the lectern and encouraged the students, faculty, alumni, and others in attendance to begin filling the forum. Still skeptical, and eager to hear was was going to be said, I took a position in the front row near the center of the room. After a brief recap of the law school’s history and a warm introduction, with many a pause for applause, Peter Allard was given the floor.

To my surprise (!) and shame, the man humbly delivered a 12 page speech with hardly a word about himself or his achievements. Peter spoke about some of his inspirations, in particular U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S. Truman, who he described as people who strove for causes which were beyond themselves as mere mortals. He talked about our mortality. He talked about some of the good things that had come out of our law school. He spoke of a hope for the future, of the courage that would be required of each of us to move this world on toward better things – in spite of the corruption and growing disenfranchised, which he also spoke of. He expressed lament over the sense of powerlessness that seems to have taken hold in the youth of today, but, with humility, he reiterated his sentiments about the power and the spirit in each of us to motivate change. To take care of each other. To live by the golden rule.

Andrea Fraser got up after him and, without having much advance notice of what would be taking place that day, was able to express from a students point of view what Peter A. Allard meant to us, and what the endowment would mean going forward. When she finished speaking, the forum was opened up, and guests were invited to champagne and sparkling water to celebrate the event. I stood in place dumbfounded for a moment, piecing back together the fragments of this unexpected day.

I decided, not being able to find each and every person I’d ranted to before the announcement in the ensuing chaos, that the best I might be able to do would be to apologize to Mr. Allard in person. I shook his hand, and he introduced himself (“Peter”) before I had a chance to do the same. I explained to him what I had done before the announcement, about the disparaging comments that I’d canvased the student body with. I told him that I now felt quite bad about the whole thing, and that I’d wished I’d heard him out before casting judgement on his actions. His response was as humbling as the speech he’d given before – he laughed, and told me that someone was bound to take such a shot at him. His magnanimity left me, as Andrea Fraser had described the effect of his gift in her speech moments before, breathless. He told me I wasn’t the only one to have had the thoughts that I did, and we started into another conversation, before we were all too quickly cut off by another group of students eager to make his acquaintance. I shook his hand once more, told him I was glad to have met him, and walked away with no more animus toward him or the school than that a detached autumn leaf might have for the tree that once bore it.

UBC’s Vantage College: Canadian students need not be so angry

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Author: Justin McGregor

UBC’s decision to build a school exclusively for international students was met with strong opposition from students and associations on campus.

Criticism of the college seems to be based on two grounds. The first attacks UBC’s willingness to spend over a $100 million at a time when, well, UBC doesn’t have over a $100 million to spend. In fact, UBC had to borrow the money just to build the college.

And the second line of criticism takes issue with the special treatment international students are allegedly receiving at the expense of current students.

It’s no secret that UBC, like most public universities, is facing serious financial problems. At the end of the 2013 fiscal year, UBC was about $414.7 million in debt. Tuition has been increasing steadily in the last couple years, and student housing is expected to increase by 20 percent.

Given all of this, it’s not surprising that UBC’s decision to invest $127 million into building a college exclusively for international students attracted some criticism. If money is so tight, first why is UBC spending money on building a new college, and second spending it on a college exclusively for international students? If UBC has any money to spend, one would think it should be on improving education for current students.

However, this fiscal objection carries little weight when you consider the potential long-term benefits the college could bring UBC. International students will be paying an exorbitant amount for tuition and accommodation—about $50,000 a year to be precise. To put that figure into perspective, consider that 100 students attending the college earns UBC $5 million. The school already has over 200 students enrolled, and it hasn’t even been built yet.

It’s true that the $127 million it will cost to build the college could be put towards building more housing for current students or finding ways to combat rising tuition costs. But it makes much more economic sense to invest in something that pays off more in the long-run than to spend $127 million on making marginal improvements now. The latter will only increase debt with no return. In contrast, the long-term revenue generated from the college can be used to address some of UBC’s financial problems, which directly benefits current, non-international students. Therefore, if the college will have any effect on UBC’s financial crisis, it will be to alleviate it, not exacerbate it.

The second objection is a bit more interesting. At the heart of it is a knee-jerk reaction to what many perceive as rich students getting special treatment. The college will only be available to international students who can afford to pay for the tuition and accommodation, which at $50,000 a year is realistically only the wealthiest of the wealthy. That international students will get an entire college to themselves almost seems as though UBC is implementing segregation. Some have gone as far as to suggest the college is evidence of “classism” and “elitism” at UBC.

Accusing UBC of elitism or classism seems a tad hyperbolic. There’s no evidence students from lower socio-economic statuses are being denied entrance into UBC, or receiving a poorer quality education than students coming from wealthier families. Tuition for domestic students is heavily subsidized, the Government offers student loans with fair interest rates, tuition increases are capped at %2 a year, and there are millions of dollars available in scholarships and bursaries, many of which target lower income students, visible minorities, and parents. How any of this smacks of elitism or classism is beyond me.

The argument that Vantage College creates a de facto two-tier system of education, one for the wealthy internationals and the other for the impecunious Canadians, is equally without merit. It is based on 1) a fundamental misunderstanding—and mischaracterization—of the school’s intent and 2) unfounded and egregious assumptions about international students.

As a starting point, I think we can all agree there is nothing inherently wrong in allowing international students who don’t speak English as a first language but who otherwise meet UBC’s academic requirements to attend UBC. Students born outside of Canada are just as deserving of a quality education as Canadians. Many people from across the world already immigrate to Canada because they believe there are more opportunities here. The same is true of education. In light of this and Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism, it only makes sense that our universities should be just as open and accommodating to international students, many of whom may plan to immigrate here one day.

Living in a foreign country and studying at an English speaking school presents challenges for international ESL students. Vantage College aims to remove some of these common cultural and academic barriers by creating a supportive environment in which international students can strengthen their command of the English language while working towards a degree. After finishing one year at Vantage College, students will be able to take regular UBC courses. The school thus serves as a stepping-stone for international students, easing their transition into undergraduate school.

I’m sure the predominant image of an “international student” which comes to the minds of many is a spoiled Asian kid, driving to school in a Mercedes bought and paid for by his wealthy parents. If this stereotype is based on any kernel of truth, I suspect that it is a very small one.

What these broad generalizations overlook are the international students relying on loans, and collective family savings, to pay for the same education that Canadian students receive at a fraction of the cost; the student born in a working class family whose parents want a better life for him; the student who takes the bus to school because he doesn’t have a Mercedes; or the student working hard to learn a new language and study a difficult subject matter in a completely foreign environment. International students attend UBC for the same reasons as you and I: to get a quality education that translates into a career. And they pay considerably more for that opportunity.

UBC’s announcement of Vantage College had brought out the worst type of critics—the armchair, I’m going to criticize your decision on vague, poorly defined principled grounds without providing any reasonable alternatives to achieving the outcome we all want. The current housing crisis at UBC can only be fixed by building more housing—and that costs money. And where do critics propose this money should come from, if not from the fruits of investments like Vantage College?

Tuition hikes? I highly doubt that. The recent %2 increase in tuition is projected to result in only $6 million-$8 million in incremental revenue. And that tuition increase, I should add, was vehemently opposed by many of the same people now against Vantage College. I also don’t imagine our fiscally conservative provincial Government will be forking out any more money for universities in the near future. In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite. Trees? We all know money doesn’t grow there—or perhaps some of us don’t know this.

I think it’s fair to say Vantage College is a reasonable solution to UBC’s financial problems. We’re able to give students from abroad access to quality education while at the same time creating some revenue for UBC. UBC is not the only Canadian university which accepts international students. Having a specialized college aimed at making life and school for international students easier is likely to attract more students to UBC. This results in more revenue, and puts UBC in a better position to address many of the financial problems which largely fueled (almost ironically) student opposition to the College in the first place.

The Allard High Experience

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Author: Tahsin Najam

Why, hello there dear incoming law student. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life. What’s that? Perhaps you haven’t obtained admission into the hallowed halls of Allard Hall? It’s quite all right – this guide will be just as pertinent to your inquisitive and curious self.

Allard Hall. A rather glorious building nestled in one of the far-reaching corners of the never-ending UBC campus. Don’t fret, there’s a reason why this building is so illogically placed. Seclusion and pretension are instrumental in creating an air of hauteur within the law school atmosphere. Implictly understood is that if university campuses were divided into a class-system, the law students would be consorting with each other at the very top with a mutual disdain for those lowly undergrads.

There are a variety of main and side entrances to Allard, but it doesn’t matter. The second that you, a student not currently within law school, enters, we know. You will be met with looks of contempt and superiority. Has this person written the LSAT? Sociology, calculus, and psychology – please. Until you have composed 1000 words on why your trip to Africa made you yearn for a legal career to put right those ghastly wrongs in the world, you are an outsider. Hope, social justice and activism? While you use them to get into law school, the faculty sneers at such things. They spend every moment of three years extracting such ideals from your mind. They won’t stop until you can rationalize global corporations killing baby pandas for the sake of laying down mile-wide oil pipelines, and maybe a dog-fighting casino (sponsored by Michael Vick). That doesn’t make sense? Doesn’t matter, you’ll justify it.

Upon entering, you must go to the front desk to declare your presence. As stated before, we know you shouldn’t be here. If you’re able to make it past the accusing glares and gain admission into the prestigious elite, the front desk allows you to put a red sticker on your student card succinctly stating, OK.” This red sticker signifies that you are a law student and that you are indeed, okay. Anything else would be intolerable, and such imposters are stamped and put in a line, subsequently being slowly trudged out of the building as the law students pelt them with old statutes and gavels. Though one history student died of traumatic head injuries upon being flattened by the Criminal Code, there have never been any other casualties.

The Law Students:

Ahhh, the law students. If you are lucky enough, then one day you too can join the ranks of these neurotic and perverse souls. There are three types of law students – one for each year they attend the educational quagmire that is law. The longer they have attended, the more likely it is that they have completed their transformation to jaded and narcissistic suits.

First Years (Or otherwise known as, the 1Ls): If you ever gain admission into law school, you will be able to experience the peculiar life of a confused first-year law student. Often described by practicing lawyers as the most difficult year of their lives, fresh-faced individuals from all walks of life come together to undergo a torpid yearlong roller-coaster ride. This isn’t the plot of a movie, it’s an actual phenomenon, and Roger Ebert just gave it a post-humous two thumbs up. Faced with an onslaught of hundreds of pages of readings, one hundred percent finals, and a brand new way of thinking, these students look up to their upper year mentors and choose the only sensible option available – drinking their sorrows away. Indeed, besides the other required courses they take, law students gain an introduction to their inevitable descent into alcoholism.

Travelling in packs around the building wishing to avoid any contact from those outside their year, 1L’s often tremble and sweat profusely if addressed directly. Used to having been in the top of their classes, they come to understand that they are dreadfully average in law school and that there’s no better wave to ride than the class curve. Many events and social functions are offered to first-years to continue their legal education and serve as an opportunity for them to meet the socially inept people that they too will become in just a few years. This culminates with a final end of the year party after which they try and cleanse themselves of that feeling of contamination that just won’t go away. Fear not 1Ls, that feeling is there for the rest of your lives.

2L: By this time, students have become accustomed to the grind of the law school life. Besides their search for a job (a process so inhumane, one breaks several Geneva Convention standards simply by alluding to it), second-years have realized that their best opportunity to not remain alone for the rest of their cat-loving lives comes from the students around them. Equally awkward and motivated, students begin to pair off in increasing numbers in a Discovery Channel-esque mating ritual. Always beginning with an inebriated fling and resulting in a contractual relationship rather than breakfast the next morning, they tolerate one another and take solace in the fact that they aren’t that other law school couple. As a wise man once said, “if you ain’t no punk, holla we want pre-nup.”

3L: By their final year of law school, students have given up all pretense of being interested in their academic pursuits. Having usually figured out which desk at what firm they are going to be spending the rest of their lives performing menial tasks at, students simply drink and live. 3L, don’t care indeed.

The Premises:

Upon gaining access to Allard, there are several areas in which you can luxuriate in your newfound status. The first is the law cafeteria, or as the Faculty pompously calls it, the Hong Kong Alumni Student Lounge. This speaks to a maxim that you must take to heart for your career in law. Why state anything concisely when you can add half-a-dozen more words and a more impressive noun? Though primarily used to confuse non-legal folk into paying lawyers for inane work, there is also a precedent to put law students through excruciating pain by reading decisions and statutes hundreds of pages too long simply because the judges and lawyers themselves had to do such things. See that sentence? It could have been half as long and just as effective.

Moving back to the cafeteria however, it is a central location in which students sit amongst each other and discuss pretentious things that they all know nothing about. Meanwhile, the large-screen TV inundates the students        with news of global politics and disasters to which they throw an occasional glance as they wait for their turn to speak. While law students take pleasure in the sounds of their own voices, they eat from the over-priced and very bland café. It operates much in the manner of any campus cafeteria, serving slop on rice and other baked and somewhat healthy goods. The difference? This nutrition is worldly; that’s not just beef stew on rice – it’s Mongolian beef with Venezuelan baby carrots. Every day, law students eat the same slop while taking pride in their cultural acceptance.

Next are the lockers downstairs. Law school is not simply an illusion of high school, it is a deliberate recreation of the best times of some of these student’s lives. As students gather around their lockers partaking in the latest gossip, or mock-complaining about their time in law school, they are secretly assessing each other’s social value whilst trying to evaluate who they must befriend or dispatch from their inner circle. Once you make it past the lockers, you see that there are card-access showers where law students fornicate with one other in an attempt to never leave the building. Or washrooms where cardigan-wearing men ogle at themselves in the mirror whilst their female counterparts do the same in a variety of outfits ranging from outlandish to severe business professional.

Finally, you can retreat to the law library where a sullen despair reigns throughout the year. There is no happiness to be found within these three floors of study spaces and stacks. As students pore over volumes of confounding legal nonsense, they, as a unit, pull out their packs of highlighters and multi-coloured tabs. As they attempt to outdo each other by making the most beautiful flowcharts, case summaries, and lecture outlines, this twisted dance can only be interrupted by one thing. SNAILS. No, I’m not speaking about terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs, but the presence of non-law students. You see, it is a privilege to be able to study in this tortured space; so much so that they have coined a term for the intruders. Students not actually in law school, or SNAILS. If any such person attempts to cram their much-less complicated material on these desks, law students will stare daggers at them, and occasionally unsheathe their actual daggers in a menacing manner. These SNAILS are only spared when the monitoring library staff asks to see their stickered student card. Upon coming up empty, the SNAILS are marched out while law students shower them with salt only to return to their studies with a vindictive silence.

The Professors:

The professors are like a cast of a frenzied musical – each playing their own role, each peculiar in their own way. Whether through illegible scribbling, unintelligible barking or whispered murmurs, these professors communicate the secrets of law as students hurriedly and peevishly take down every word coming from their hallowed mouths. Never actually found in their offices, the professors are often away on exotic trips to distant parts of the world, or just found in the faculty lounge where they drunkenly swap stories of old courtroom battles just like the grizzled veterans in your favorite forlorn pub. If you do manage to get some time with a professor to ask class-related questions, they will often take that time to distract you and regale you with stories of past students and their favourite refrain – “You’re going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.” Whilst also acting as a cover to mask their forgotten knowledge surrounding their class material, this constant expression is used to build a façade to anesthetize law students into believing that they are indeed going to be all right, or put more plainly, make the exorbitant amounts of money that they came to school for.

Unfortunately for law students however, not everyone is going to be all right. Faced with suffocating debt, this is where career services play a role. A legendary branch of law school, these three women glow so bright that students have mistaken them for Greek gods sent to help students navigate through the mire that is trying to obtain a legal career. As they bring offerings for pieces of advice, students are funneled into corporate openings as firms test potential hires by first intoxicating them and subsequently asking them to complete complex legal problems while concurrently perfecting the weekly crossword. The students who fail this standard test are tossed aside only to be seen during commercials of your favorite legal drama offering their own legal services in exchange for just about anything.

Conclusion:

Finally, back to you, a potential Allard Hall student. Have you been swayed by the grandeur of law school? Fear not, if you do one day decide to attend law school, you will be welcomed with pasty open arms and clenched hearts. Despite being a breeding ground for Patrick Bateman types, the legal community is just that – a community. All it will cost you is a piece of your soul, impending alcoholism, and a skewed sense of right and wrong. Welcome to Allard High.

The Diary of Allard Girl: Pages 1-3.

Page 1:

Law School Party in 2012.

Law School Party in 2012.

Something very strange is happening at law parties, and it doesn’t add up. Are Allard High students truly responsible for the atrocious things that have happened at recent ‘animalistic’ law parties? An independent task force (Andreea Frasier with a magnifying glass and her sleuth dog Banks) has looked into the matter and has come up with startling findings – students from Saudr Skool of Stocks and Bonds (“Saudr”) have been getting their suits tailored-up to look like real law students, and appearing at all of our events to crash the party.

Let me recap for you the horror, caused by these rogues at the museum party: Employees were running back and forth with mops, using their bodies as human shields for the precious “exhibits” (a few toy boats and some wooden blocks), propping the crumbling rafters up with broom handles, and shutting down what was left of the dance floor, which had completely fallen away to expose a bottomless abyss. As the apocalypse raged on around them, one museum employee dropped to their knees, screaming “Whyyyyyyyyyy??? Why is there a pitchfork stuck in the ceiling????”. When interviewed, Kaytln Cowarrd summed the atrocities up perfectly, saying “You know what? You’re the best. Seriously though – I love you. You’re great. I love everyone here,” before hugging every person at the party. Roslyn Chann, a Saudr grad, was witnessed grimacing from the shadows, hissing “excellent, my pretties….excellent…”.

Geez, you’d think that would be enough, but no. I’m afraid it gets worse. When two people love each other, sometimes they do puzzling things. Sometimes those things happen on an artifact in a museum. What better way to declare your romantic love for someone, than on a stationary boat, in a public function, in a museum? Of course, this has happened multiple times on moving boats in the law school’s history… but that’s different.

In a disappointing turn of events, the Illegal Beavers rugby team were surprisingly calm, sober, and well behaved, as they bravely manned the beer tubs amidst the chaos. Branden MacLowd had this to say “Some people just like to watch the world burn. Others like to make money off of beer sales while it’s happening.”

The museum is not the only thing that Saudr students have left in complete and utter shambles. From the original boat cruise boat (may it rest in English Bay), to the ruins of Hycroft House (anyone want some reclaimed mahogany?), law parties have run rampant over Vancouver. Initially, the Channing regime tried blaming all of the atrocities on the fact that law students get ridiculously stoked, causing them to do inexplicable things. This obscures the truth. We do, from time to time, get stoked, but the task force has made a vital finding of fact: the Saudr rogue group is a bunch of ‘stoking-experts’. With Chann’s help, they are capable of going ‘incognito’ at any private function, and getting so stoked that the group hosting the event actually gets banned. Then, on they go to their next victim.

This threat must be addressed, and the moles among us must be exposed, so that we’re not relegated to partying in barns like they do in Winnipeg (though at least this would be an appropriate venue to bring a pitchfork). On the whole, it’s just so relieving to find out that law students would never ever do anything like that, ever. Phew.

-Allard Girl xoxoxo


Page 2:

A new sporting craze has taken Allard High by storm. Since its introduction in September, Spikeball has gained an almost cult-like popularity. Played with a green oversized dog toy and what appears to be a trampoline for 3 year olds situated on the ground, Spikeball is played by two teams of two, who alternate hitting said dog toy off of said baby-trampoline until one team fails to do so. It’s all very important and epic. Yay sports.

Tal Letourno-Shesaff, the owner of a pretentious hyphenated name and incredible Spikeball skills, is the undisputed MVP of the Allard High spikeball league. Bill Skinnr, the grand-daddy of spikeball at UBC, says of Letourno-Shesaf: “I’ve never seen anyone with such direct access to the net. Even when he’s fully standing up, he’s no more than three feet away from it. That’s a big…..errr….significant advantage.”

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in spikeball-land though. Will Skinnr is not happy with the game’s reputation as a “glamour sport”.

“We’re tired of being objectified as ‘those shirtless guys on the front lawn’” said Skinnr. “If you can see past the manly chest-hair, the rippling biceps, and the chiselled buttocks, we’re actually extremely skilled players.”

At press time, Blaire McRadoo and Letourno-Shesaf were showing off the results of their summer cut, Will Skinner was exhibiting his voluptuous chest-bush, and Corey Segall was tending to his pristine quaff. Jamie Hoops was also there.

The UBC Spikeball team, in a rare, fully-clothed picture.

The UBC Spikeball team, in a rare, fully-clothed picture.

-Allard Girl xoxoxo


Page 3:

We Allardians love hearing about the latest hook-ups, break-ups and make-ups amoung our peers. In fact, nothing gets us more excited than some good old-fashioned relationship drama. Nothing, that is, except for bromances a-brewing among the Allard bros and let me tell you, the boys have been drama-licious this year. Here’s what you need to know about the brouples and blossoming bromances at Allard High so far this year.

By now, Dawid Kempp and John Brawn’s sit-com-esque, 1 gay, 1 straight, bromance turned roomie-ship is old news but there’s a new duo trying to steal their obnoxiously charming thunder. Rumour has it Wilsin Scot and Kevan Hennissey took the plunge and became roomies this summer and their apartment is as hilarious and awkward as we all imagine. We get it, you’re so 2014. Sources tell us Wilsin was spotted at the Exchange Information Session, could there be trouble in paradise?

The gym has proven to be a bromance breeding ground this year. Sources say Waine Fernandess and Cryley O’Rien have been seen “chalking each other up” on more than one occasion, if you know what I mean. “Just last week, I heard Cryley sensuously whisper to Waine that he’d take him to ‘Thighland’ to get some nice spicy ‘thigh’ food – I don’t even want to know what that means,” said gym frequenter Daweed Csysyslsuhdfk. Daweed has also been spotted broupled up in da gym with Babs Zargarianne, but the two refuse to comment on their own bro-lationship status, stating that they “Keep it professional” when they’re “pumping”.

Even the new kids are getting in on the bro love. We’ve all seen 1Ls Jamess Strutters and Meesha Smokin gallivanting around Allard showing off their Bro ‘Mos and skinny jeans but our sources tell us the two have taken their bromance to the next level. “They’ve even given themselves a brouple name, they call themselves ‘Jasha’ and I heard they got a joint account, tinder account.” said fellow 1L Jenn Hortin when asked about her friends’ bro-lationship status.

Perhaps most scandalously, there are rumours that Tye Dergosouph has been seen bromantically engaging with a Non-L. That’s right people, Tye is rumoured to be bro-ing out with his J Crew Salesman. Tye refused to comment but the proof is in the well-dressed, preppy pudding if you ask me.

Jasha <3

Jasha ❤

-Allard Girl xoxoxo

Vancouver Post-OCI Survey

If you want to decompress and share your thoughts about the frustrating OCI process, please click the link below. Spencer Keys has designed a very useful survey, and we will share the results with you afterwards. We encourage you to fill this out, even if you did not land a position, as this is a very valuable source of information for not only 2Ls, but 1Ls going forward. As well, we want you to know that we love you and your worth is incalculable. A strange, demeaning process that is akin to speed dating should not determine your worth. It’s reassuring to simply remember that a very high rate of us will land articling positions in any case. The CSO also tells me that about another 25% of 2Ls may find work outside of the OCI process, so keep at it!

The Survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6BB35MP

The Confusing Road to Allard Hall: One Step at a Time

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Seems like a 45 degree angle to me.

Warning: this article contains personal opinions about stepping-stones based on actual facts.

Written By: Dawid Cieloszczyk, 2L.

Do you ever feel like you’re taking steps in the wrong direction? Does the path to your destination seem like a nonsensical winding, side-ways, unevenly spaced, awkward series of motions? Because this, is precisely what the new steps leading to Allard Hall feel like.

Just look at them. I am doubtful that Allard changed its admissions standards to invite individuals with extraordinarily long legs, or who are generally comfortable walking sideways, AND have a high LSAT/GPA. With TRU and a possible TWU looming about, this scenario becomes frightfully more realistic.

Here’s the thing about ‘funny’ architecture. It’s just not very humorous at all. As a functional thing, ordinary people usually take pathways cutting through fields in order to save some time; effort is presumably reduced. “Yes, but we are absurd beings though”, says the existential architect. “We must embrace the futility of progress, and that straight, evenly spaced steps are simply le mainstream”. Can we rid ourselves of our fragile mental shackles and embrace the awkward path before us? For these steps are more than just slabs of rock, my dear friends. They are the burning in the loins, because you usually find yourself overextending to avoid taking 100 baby steps and mud on your shoes.

Could you imagine how complacent students would get walking straight to class, without navigating their footing oh so fanatically? It would be like Groundhog Day: every day is exactly the same. We can only shudder at such a reality.

There’s a popular theological argument called “Paley’s Ontological Argument”, in which a person walking by the beach discovers a watch, knowing nothing about it or where it came from. He/she can only be led to the conclusion that a watchmaker or intelligent designer was responsible for the complex gadget, and draws an analogy to an intelligent designer for the universe. When I look at these steps, my mind goes blank, because I only see the design part. Well.. yeah, at least they were designed.

Surely Allard Hall isn’t all about the schadenfreude, as a progressive institution of learning with all of these egalitarian values. Could this have really been done to watch your tortured friends attempt to shimmy across the field awkwardly? I guess we’ll never know..

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Just look at those failed footprints.

Dawkins, Down’s, and Abortion: A recipe for controversy

Richard Dawkins using social media

Richard Dawkins using social media

Article By Justin McGregor, 2L

The outspoken scientist and well-known atheist Richard Dawkins landed himself in hot water after making what many thought was a highly offensive and insensitive comment on Twitter.

In response to a tweet by a mother who was uncertain what she would do if she was pregnant with a baby with Down syndrome, Dawkins tweeted “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice”.

Not surprisingly, the comment unleashed a firestorm of criticisms across media outlets, with some even equating Dawkins’ views to those of the Nazis. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society said it was “appalled” by Dawkins’ tweets in a statement posted to its website. Many parents of children with Down syndrome shared pictures and stories of their children on Facebook and other social media websites.

In Dawkins’ defense, it is often difficult to convey anything meaningful in less than 150 characters, particularly when the subject on which you are commenting is as politically charged as abortion. Add to that the touchy issue of prenatal screening and a quick tweet is bound to fall victim to misinterpretations. True, it was tactless and incredibly short-sighted on Dawkins’ part to offer an opinion on such a sensitive and complicated subject in less than 150 characters. However, equating Dawkins to Hitler based on one tweet seems a tad excessive.
Dawkins did attempt to clarify his comment on his website in an article entitled “Abortion & Down Syndrome: An Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar”. Unfortunately for Dawkins, however, his second stab at expressing his opinion didn’t fully remove his foot from his mouth.
First, Dawkins pleads twitter ignorance and says he thought the comment was private. Apparently he didn’t realize the comment was viewable to the public, not just to the woman at whom it was directed. To me, that sounds awfully like the author of a racist joke saying “I didn’t know anyone else was listening”. Even if genuine, his ignorance doesn’t address the content of the message, which is what people are attacking.

Second, Dawkins makes a half-hearted apology to those who found his comment offensive. I say “half-hearted” because, although he says he never meant to suggest any of the terrible things people accuse him of, and admits his language was “understandably seen in some quarters as rather heartless and callous”, he more or less excuses his comment and shifts the blame to critics with an axe to grind: “my phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half of the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand”.

Dawkins then seeks to justify his comment by arguing that 1) it is simply based on his moral theory of utilitarianism—that you should wherever possible aim to maximize pleasure and happiness while minimizing pain and suffering—and 2) it is a logical extension of the pro-choice position, which many of his critics presumably espouse.

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to justify an offensive comment in what is supposed to be a genuine apology for the offensive comment. Anyone who has ever tried to apologize to someone for offending him/her knows this. You only cause insult to injury when you accuse those offended by your comment of being driven by ulterior motives. That conjecture is inconsistent with Dawkins’ earlier admission that his comment could understandably be seen as heartless and callous. If it’s reasonable to see his comment as offensive, then surely it’s also reasonable to say it was offensive. Or to put it another way: If there’s wood to be cut, it’s not fair to criticize people for grinding an axe.

Obviously Down syndrome presents challenges that a child without downs will not have to overcome. However, the assertion that it is morally better for a child not be born at all than to be born with some complications is not a self-evident truth. Whether this is true is a complex ethical question to which there are likely many different, reasonable answers. Down syndrome may make life harder for a child, but a parent might want to nevertheless give the child a chance. Moreover, there are a multitude of different ways to define and measure happiness and well-being. To label the decision of a mother to give life to a fetus immoral seems uncalled for. Who is Dawkins to say who and for what reasons a fetus ought to be brought into this world? The reasoning behind his argument also seems to invite slippery slope criticisms. How much of an impact must congenital complications or defects have before a mother is morally obligated not to bring the child into the world? That question, obviously, isn’t easy to answer, which is precisely the point Dawkins fails to realize.

In any event, I’m not really interested in Dawkins moral defense of his comment. He is after all entitled to his opinion, which is at least somewhat defensible. Where my problem with Dawkins’ comments lies is his claim that they are simply a logical extension of the pro-choice view.

Dawkins makes the case that some of his critics—or “haters” as he calls them—are hypocrites for arguing his comment is offensive. Among those who found Dawkins’ comment offensive are many people who also consider themselves pro-choice. Holding the two views seems to create a paradox. On the one hand, people found Dawkins’ suggestion that a woman should abort a fetus with downs syndrome offensive because it suggested the fetus with downs didn’t deserve a life. On the other hand, the same people also believe that a woman should have the general right to decide whether or not to have an abortion, which logically entails and protects women aborting fetuses because they have downs syndrome. The reason a woman exercises her right to abortion shouldn’t matter if you accept the basic premise of the pro-choice position, which is that a woman has a right to choose whether to carry a fetus to term. Recognizing the general right to make the choice necessarily includes exercises of the right for specific reasons. Dawkins is just advocating exercising the right in a particular circumstance, which most women apparently already do.

Logically, this makes sense. I agree it is internally incoherent and self-contradictory to believe a woman has a general right to get an abortion, but then to also believe it’s wrong to abort a fetus solely because it has downs syndrome, or for that matter any other reason. However, Dawkins misses the more subtle point of the controversy, and appears to be as blind to the hypocrisy within his own response as he alleges against his critics.

What Dawkins said was that it would be immoral not to abort a fetus if you knew it had downs syndrome and had the ability to get an abortion. He maintains this firm view in his unabridged reply, saying, “Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort”.

To say an act is immoral is to suggest that people have a moral obligation not to engage in the act. Dawkins is therefore saying that a woman has a moral obligation to make a very particular choice with respect to her body (i.e., getting an abortion). And the choice is motivated by a concern that not exercising that choice will potentially cause the baby harm once it is born.

To me, this is logically no different than a pro-life supporter saying a woman shouldn’t get an abortion out of concern for the fetus. Both views claim women have a moral obligation to make a very particular choice in relation to their body, and ground this belief in their own personal moral views which others may reasonably disagree with.

Dawkins’ comments, both in their abridged and full version, are not a logical extension of the pro-choice view. What follows from accepting that women are free to get an abortion is that the morality of the choice, and the specific reasons motivating the choice, is something for a woman to decide. Bold claims about how and why a woman ought to exercise her right, and why it would be immoral for her not to exercise it in a very particular way in a particular circumstance, are, in my opinion, an affront to women’s liberty.

Pro-choice is just that: believing that women ought to have the liberty to make decisions about their body, such as whether to get an abortion. Dawkins may have very good reasons to think it is immoral not to abort a fetus if one knows it has downs syndrome. If he is ever faced with the choice he can follow his morals. Similarly, a Christian may be rationally justified in believing it is immoral to abort a fetus and act accordingly. Neither, however, are in a position to cast moral judgment on the actions of other women, particularly when the choice is a very personal one (as is the case, I think, with deciding whether to have a child with downs) and especially if you claim to support pro-choice, as Dawkins, I presume, does.