Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Honours for homophobe confirmed

As noted in an earlier post, Carleton University is planning to honour a local homophobe, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, with an honorary doctorate on June 13.

Protests have been pouring in, with this result:

Further to your recent e-mail, I wish to advise that at its meeting of June 1, 2006, the Senate of the University considered the recommendation that Rabbi Bulka receive an Honorary degree from Carleton University. After a careful and thorough examination of the issue, it determined that the University will confer the degree upon Rabbi Bulka at its spring Convocation to recognize his outstanding career as a community leader and scholar.

All universities welcome debate and respect diverging opinions. Carleton has always demonstrated tolerance for such discourse and as such respects the views of those who might not agree with some of Dr. Bulka's positions and statements. We strongly believe that tolerance and diversity is applicable to all groups who might have conflicting views on a single issue.

David W. Atkinson
President and Vice-Chancellor

Dr. Atkinson's sinuous and mendacious reasoning, not to mention the reaffirmation of the award by the Carleton University Senate in the full knowledge of what it was doing, will tarnish the reputation of a university hitherto well-known for its openness and diversity. The notion that homophobia is itself to be accommodated under the rubric of diversity represents a perversion of the very notion of diversity. The same argument could be advanced to award degrees to racists: after all, we should be tolerant, says Dr. Atkinson, of "all groups who might have conflicting views on a single issue."

Now, I don't happen to like the word "tolerance
" very much--it sounds too much like "putting up with." However, I will defend a notion of inclusiveness that doesn't self-destruct by being made to include those who hate the very notion of inclusiveness and who are activists in that respect. People like Rabbi Bulka, who thinks that homosexuality is a disease to be cured, and who sits on the so-called "Scientific Advisory Committee" of a wingnut organization that's going around peddling such views.

Those who share my outrage at the patent rationalizations presented here by Dr. Atkinson to excuse the actions of the Carleton Senate should drop him a line: david_atkinson@carleton.ca

UPDATE: (June 13) A decorous and very Canadian protest took place outside the convocation hall at Carleton today. A leaflet, rolled up to look like a diploma, was handed to attendees by a small handful of us. My partner had the privilege of giving one to Dr. Bulka himself. (One person in his entourage took a look at the rainbow scarf of a leafletter and said, "No, I don't think so." The rest, however, seeing him accept one, took them as well.)

Here are some excerpts from the leaflet. Note that the award of this degree directly contravenes Carleton University policy.

Part IV.3 of the Carleton University Statement on Conduct and Human Rights is the Sexual Orientation Equality Policy. It advocates that:

The University recognizes that a harmonious climate in relation to sexual orientation is essential to the academic, professional and personal development of all of its members.

It also says that:

The University does not tolerate or condone heterosexism or negative stereotyping on the basis of sexual orientation.

Recognizing that awarding this honorary degree compromises the maintenance of a "harmonious climate in relation to sexual orientation" for many students and that NARTH is a heterosexist and institutionally homophobic organization, the CUSA [Carleton University Students' Association] GBLTQ Centre has launched this information campaign.

This campaign is not against Rabbi Bulka; he is entitled to freedom of expression and association, as are all Canadians. This campaign is in response to the decision of the University Senate to confer an honorary degree to an individual who has membership in an organization that is heterosexist and institutionally homophobic. The GLBTQ Centre advocates that membership in organizations that violate our University's Human Rights Policies should not be overlooked in the process of considering a nominee for an honorary degree, regardless of who the individual may be....

We are therefore lobbying for the following

1. That all nominees undergo a thorough background check of their credentials, experience, qualifications and qualities
2. That no nominee may proceed if they are in violation of any of the clauses of the Carleton University Human Rights Policy and Procedures
3. That a list of nominees be posted publicly so that all faculty, staff and students may submit any objections

4. That all award nominees are presented with the Human Rights policy and sign an agreement that states that they agree with all of its policies

...[W]e also suggest writing a letter of support for the campaign to the Senate via its clerk, Brian Mortimer at senate@carleton.ca and to the GLBTQ Centre at glbt@cusaonline.com....

I have to congratulate these students on their strategic savvy: rather than simply protesting a done deal, they are looking to the future and trying to improve the process that led to this travesty. Transparency in government? Then transparency in the Carleton University Senate.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention one unfortunate incident earlier in the week. Ottawa's well-known vulgarian, Lowell Green, decided to go after the students on his radio talk show. He referred to them as "fascists." One woman who phoned in told me she had been called a "superior c--t," the last word bleeped on the show itself. (Did he kiss his mother with that mouth?) I was informed that he also threatened a male student who telephoned, stating, "We know how to take care of you." So much for trying to uphold minimal standards of human rights, not to mention their own institution's stated policies.

Bravo, in any case, to the kids, for running a decent, strategic protest campaign. Apparently they have some faculty support. Will the Carleton Univerity administration, which disgraced itself on this occasion, engage in a little sober second thought?

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