More on the Canadian Professor and the Cartoons:

The Canadian Press reports:

An outspoken professor who was forced to remove incendiary drawings of the Prophet Muhammad from his office door now plans to display them in his classroom to prove a point about freedom of speech. . . .

"I probably will take them into the classroom tomorrow morning," [Peter March] said in an interview Wednesday.

"There's a clash between (the university's) perception of protecting health and safety and my perception of what my job is. My job is, I think, to take risks."

A university spokesman said while March is free to discuss the drawings in class, displaying them is another matter.

"It would be up to the professor to decide whether that would be appropriate and necessary," said Chuck Bridges, the university's vice-president of external affairs. "I can't speculate on that. We have to wait and see what would happen if it happens." . . .

March was confronted Wednesday outside his university office by three Muslim students.

"I will say what I want . . . this is a university, this is a university," March told the students.

"That was a little bit disrespectful for the Muslims who are here," one of the students said to March, who told them he respects their rights.

"But I don't believe in your faith," he said. "I believe your faith is a pernicious thing - the same as Christianity, the same as Hinduism."

March said later that he was confronted in his office by another group who told him to apologize or face the consequences.

"The leader said, 'We're going to get you,'" said the professor, adding he notified police.

The controversy was also being felt in Charlottetown, where the student newspaper at the University of Prince Edward Island published the 12 cartoons.

The university moved quickly to stop about 2,000 copies of the newspaper from being distributed on campus.

"When we realized that they were in circulation, we acted to round up the copies that were in circulation," said UPEI president Wade MacLauchlan.

"We see it as a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation."

Ray Keating, editor of The Cadre, said he was disappointed by what he views as censorship by the university.

"I see this as an issue of freedom of expression and freedom of the press," he said.

Meanwhile, March said he plans to launch a union grievance against Saint Mary's, which ordered him to remove the drawings from his door Tuesday.

"There's a great deal in my collective agreement that says that what I am doing, which is engaging public discussion using my skills as a philosopher, is part of my job description," he said. . . .

Paul Bowlby, chairman of religious studies at Saint Mary's, is another who was bothered by March's actions.

"I find it very offensive that academic freedom is being used to defend an act of posting those cartoons in a public space, on a university campus," he said. . . .

David Sucher (mail) (www):
One practical solution for the professor might be to display the front page which has already been Published in Egypt.

Who can one argue with that?
2.9.2006 8:04pm
nk (mail) (www):
Well ... it's not really his door or his classroom. They belong to the university. His students spend their money and their youth to have him teach them ______(it was not in the article but I doubt it is cartoons of Mohammed). So I think he is skating on thin ice legally and ethically. No offense professors, but we pay you to teach our children things that will help them later on in life -- not to make them a captive audience for your views.
2.9.2006 8:37pm
go vols (mail):
"Captive audience"? Are students forced to stop by his door and look at the cartoons? Many professors put things on their doors or walls--should the university be permitted to force the professor to take them down because they're politically controversial? Couldn't I have a "God is Dead" poster on my door or office, as a faculty member, regardless of how it made my Christian students feel?

Nk--I actually think that getting students to think rationally about political controversy is something that will help them "later in life," rather than creating an environment that encourages them to shut down and censor those who speak things they disagree with (or even find abhorrent). Tolerance of other people's views is a virtue that, in my mind, universities should inculcate. I don't mean "tolerance" in the sense that you abandon your judgment of the viewpoint--I mean that you learn the appropriate response is your own speech, not bringing in the powers that be to silence them.

And while I understand your "thin ice legally" point, given that we're talking about Canada, what do you mean by "ethically"?
2.9.2006 8:46pm
Lincoln Madison (mail) (www):
Any threat of violence based on cartoons is utterly and completely unjustifiable, absolutely and without exception.

The "culture war" that our world is embroiled in is a war between Fundamentalism and Diversity.
2.9.2006 8:52pm
Professor March is just wrong about the purpose of the Academy: it is to provide a refuge for orthodoxy, pure and simple. His critics are properly expressing the New Verities which supplanted the then-orthodox 'Eternal Verities' about thirty years ago.
2.9.2006 9:23pm
nk (mail) (www):
go vols,

My "captive audience" comment was directed at his intent to show the cartoons in his classroom. If I knew what course he is being paid to teach I could be more flexible. Like, for example, "The Philosophy of Religious and Expressive Tolerance". Since I do not know, I give the benefit of the doubt to the students and presume him to teach "How to Make a Ton of Money or at Least a Decent Living". I do not want to take it further than that. The "ethically" is only "do your job and express yourself on your own time and your own expense".
2.9.2006 9:27pm
nk (mail) (www):
P.S. If you will scroll all the way down on this comment section you will see that our hosts do not recognize a right on our part to waste their bandwidth in order to exercise our freedom of expression under any and all circumstances. It seems to me that the university similarly has no obligation to indulge the use of its limited educational resources to its professors' pet peeves. (Alliteration unintentional. Lighten up, please. This is a friendly conversation on my part.)
2.9.2006 9:50pm
Just want to post a point about David Bernstein's commentless thread. I liked the review of "Munich", so if that makes me a "lunatic", so be it. History is written by historians, not engraved in stone by some omniscent overseer. All accounts are biased. The Professor should definitely be allowed to stay. Talk about trying to smother different points of view!
2.9.2006 9:56pm
So minnie, is it equally true that the Holocaust didn't happen as that it did happen? After all, "History is written by historians, not engraved in stone by some omniscent overseer. All accounts are biased."

What, you won't join me in supporting the granting of tenure to Holocaust denying history professors? "Talk about trying to smother different points of view!"

Assuming (and I hope to G_d I'm assuming correctly) that you accept that there might be a problem with granting tenure to a history professor who is a Holocaust-denier, then you must be willing to draw a line at some point. The question is, at what point does one cross out of the mainstream of genuine historical inquiry and cross over into racist/bigotry motivated torch-carrying?

It's not an easy question to answer, but it doesn't mean it isn't a legitimate question to ask.
2.9.2006 10:43pm
nk -

I couldn't find an official course schedule at the Saint Mary's site, but according to the tentative course listings for 2005-2006 at the Philosophy page (, Prof. March may be teaching a couple of Intro to Philosophy courses, Philosophy of Mind, and Philsophy of Language (maybe not all this term -- can't tell from the table).

Here's the course description for "Introduction to Philosophy":

Philosophy is devoted to the critical and creative examination of such fundamental questions as: What can be known? Does existence have meaning? What is a worthwhile life? What moral obligations do people have to one another? What makes a society just? Philosophy provides systematic training in the framing of these questions and in the rigorous analysis of the issues they involve.

Frankly, I think a discussion of the cartoons, including why they might be offensive, whether they should be offensive, and what a 'good' reaction to being offended might be, is well within the scope of an Intro to Philosophy course.

We do not have any information regarding how March teaches his class. It might very well be that he stands at the podium and vents his spleen on all those poor students who can do nothing but cower in fear, lest he intellectually eviscerate them in front of the others.

I suspect, however, that March teaches his class in much the same way that a vast majority of academics do: he attempts to engage the students in conversation about the topic at hand, encourages students to speak their minds, but challenges their ideas where needed in order to make the thinking sharper, clearer, and, ultimately, better.

Discussing these kinds of issues in a structured way, guided by someone who has done a lot of thinking about it already, is one important function of the university. Learning how to listen, think and speak well is one of the most important skills that will help a student later in life. To the extent that March is attempting to develop those skills in his students (and I think discussing current events, even inflammatory ones, is such an attempt), he is indeed doing his job.
2.9.2006 11:35pm
JGR (mail):

You raise an important point, although it's far from the cut-and-dry. Universities have been around a very long time (they go back to Ancient Greece) and the contemporary notion that they exist primarily to provide specialized training for economic success is extremely recent. Many of the people actively engaged in the "university wars" are quite explicit that this is part of the problem. Camille Paglia and Allan Bloom made similar statements - the problem is that many of the people in college really don't care about the traditional values of a universtity because they're NOT there to gain wisdom, they just want a good job.
Now many people think that this is a bad thing. In her book 'Dark Age Ahead', Jane Jacobs lists it as one of five reasons civilization is headed for collapse. Whether one agrees with the stronger version of this statement isn't important.
Some people believe that precisely because the new university is destroying the old one, it would be better if we just had more trade schools, so traditional universities could retain their core values of open inquiry and free speech.
But what you miss is that the universities don't want to explicitly reject this centuries long prestige - the reason they get government goodies such as tax breaks and student loans (as well as private scholarships) is because they still emphasize in public speeches the older values and the need for an educated populace.
Certainly, IF universities are going to continue to have classes such as philosophy instead of just training doctors, and IF they are going to require pre-med students to take them so they can continue the prestige game with its attendant rewards, THEN it is ludicrous to argue that THESE classes shouldn't adhere to the standard values of universities. The rules at a trade school might be different.
2.10.2006 12:04am
go vols (mail):

Your comparison between this website and the university, though, overlooks the private/public divide, among other things. Universities--at least in my model--have a duty to foster critical thought, and bear constitutional burdens that the blog owners (owners?) do not have, though I imagine that the Conspirators would hope that their blog does just that. Certainly, I doubt very much that they would agree that a university education is only about raising your annual salary.

That said, I know nothing about Canadian education.
2.10.2006 12:23am
jpaulg (mail):
Actually the Health and Safety aproach is a very good one for the University to take. Whilst prof. March may want to take the risk on, the university has a duty to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of injury to its employees.

Just commenting on the tactics used, not whether the tactics were employed cynically or in good faith.
2.10.2006 3:12am
nk (mail) (www):

I read the review too. Bernstein was being kind. "Mental pollution" is a better word for it.
2.10.2006 6:51am