Queen’s University’s Conversation Cops

Grant Hall, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

“Crazy Go Nuts University” – yes, I lifted the name from the”Strong Bad” web cartoons – is my pet name for my beloved alma mater, Queen’s University. Crazy Go Nuts University is part of what is informally referred to as “Canada’s Ivy League” and is one of the top three universities in Canada (the criteria for which are marks required for admission and lowest acceptance rates; the other two are McGill and University of Toronto). I had a wonderful – if extended and Van Wilder-esque – time there, as many witnesses will attest.

Queen’s has been making the news lately, and none of it is good. First, there’s the matter of Homecoming being cancelled for the next two years.

Then, there are the Conversation Cops.

They’re not really called “conversation cops”: officially, they’re student facilitators, and their job is 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.”

Here’s a sampling, courtesy of The Globe and Mail, of the sort of offences that could warrant a conversation cop’s attention:

  • If a student uses the phrase "That’s so gay" in conversation.
  • If a student calls someone or something "retarded."
  • If a student writes a homophobic, racist or other derogatory remark in a public space, such as on a residence poster or classmate’s door.
  • If a student avoids a classmate’s birthday party for faith-based reasons.

(I have no idea what is meant in the last example. Who knew birthday parties were such a source of contention?)

I understand and appreciate the good intentions behind this initiative. As someone who’s taken his racially-motivated lumps on campus, including a sucker-punching at a campus pub at the start of second year, I know what it’s like to be on the business end of harsh and unfair discrimination.

I have no problem with calling out a bigot who’s running off at the mouth. I have no problem with “frown power” – a term coined by Stetson Kennedy referring to societal pressure to curb bigotry. These actions, which were performed on a personal level, have brought about change for the better.

I have a problem when it’s being done by people paid by the University (it’s not clear from the story whether the school administration or the student council is footing the bill) to butt into overheard conversations to enforce speech codes. It smacks of the “political officers” of North Korea or the former Soviet Union or of members of Cuba’s “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution”, no matter how honourable the intent. I’m certain that these same people would find the restrictions on student behaviour at places like Bob Jones University laughable (and in that instance, they’d be right).

The conversation cops are going to have the worst job on campus. They have no authority backing them up, so their interventions are likely to be ignored, met with a classic two-word response or in extreme cases, responded to with an ass-kicking. Being a paid buzzkill isn’t going to do anything good for their social lives, either. Worst of all, they’ll find that their actions will not have the intended effect.

As odd as I find it to be in agreement with the baton-twirlers in the parade of losers that is our local neoconservative blogosphere, I have to say that Queen’s University’s hiring of conversation cops is a bad idea. As an alumnus, I’m going to make my opinion of them known when they come a-calling for their annual donation.

8 replies on “Queen’s University’s Conversation Cops”

“the baton-twirlers in the parade of losers that is our local neoconservative blogosphere”

Damn, that’s cold.

I believe the birthday party thing is a reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are not allowed to attend them.

These students are at *university*. Universities have been found so that students can discuss issues at a higher level- not be told what to say. Students need to fight their own battles as part of their educational experience.

What the …!!!??? It seemed overly PC when we were there, but this is so far over the top, it’s mind-numbing! Somehow, I don’t think you’re infamous Jeff Healey “interview” would have a snowball’s chance in hell of even making it off of your own printer there these days, let alone have a hope of getting published.

Multiculturalism doesn’t work, no matter what ethnic group are involved; it’s not the fault of the ethnic groups but multiculturalism that multiculturalism doesn’t work.

Therefore, the Nanny/Police State is gonna force it on you, because many people are still resisting it, like they resist other forms of state control that are based in unrealistic suppositions.

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