Ryerson Students’ Union blocks men’s issues group

Whatever happened to debate?

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Anjana Rao, left, Argir Argirov and Sarah Santhosh Photo by Stine Danielle

Anjana Rao, left, Argir Argirov and Sarah Santhosh tried to start a Men's Issues group (Stine Danielle)

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) takes issue with a men’s issues club. If it were not so serious, it would be laughable. An organization that collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in mandatory levies from Ryerson students is afraid of three students—two of them women—starting a men’s issues group.

Despite the constant rhetoric about diversity, equity and inclusion, the RSU cannot tolerate ideologies that run counter to its own. The irony of this patronizing attitude towards campus freedom is hard to miss. It’s as if the spirit of closed-minded religious dogma has jumped into bed with modern political correctness to prevent blasphemy against RSU ideological orthodoxy.

The principle is this: if you challenge official narrative, you don’t have the right to speak. But this is supposed to be a university—a place where we learn and debate in an open environment; where those we disagree with are challenged, not with censorship, but with other ideas. To agree to disagree and to respectfully debate—this is true tolerance.

Perhaps the RSU thinks we’re not up to the task. And like vulnerable children our cradle-minding executive must protect us from “dangerous” ideas.

As reported in The Eyeopener, president Rodney Diverlus cited a lack of compliance with RSU policies as one of the reasons this club was not allowed. Perhaps this is because the RSU conveniently amended its relevant policies beforehand, effectively stonewalling the creation of this club.

Some fear that the discussion of men’s issues will somehow silence women’s voices. But surely talking about men’s health, violence among men, and male reproductive rights isn’t so appalling that it must be stamped out like heresy. And if, horror of horrors, such a group ever decided to critique modern feminism, is that not a legitimate discussion to have at a university?

No one is saying women’s issues shouldn’t be discussed. But if women’s issues can be discussed, then the tent ought to be large enough for men too. After all, one of the official equity services offered by the RSU is the Centre for Women and Trans People. This isn’t only a student club, but also an official arm of the RSU.

We must acknowledge that, on a diverse campus like Ryerson’s, there are varying opinions on gender issues. These are informed by our different social, cultural and religious backgrounds.

Intellectual maturity is demonstrated by listening and debating. Resorting to fear mongering and politicking to silence differing opinions is ignorant.

Of course, it is appropriate for the RSU to have general policies. But as an organization that exists to represent all students at Ryerson, it’s the union’s responsibility to encourage an environment where all voices can be heard.

Personal ideology must not be used as a means to justify limiting academic or campus freedom. As long as this club is not advocating anything illegal under Canadian law, that ought to be good enough for the RSU.

This commentary was first published in The Ryersonian student newspaper.