Religious accommodation or ‘accessory to sexism’? York student’s case stirs debate


Goober
#1
Religious accommodation or ‘accessory to sexism’? York student’s case stirs debate
Religious accommodation or ‘accessory to sexism’? York student’s case stirs debate - The Globe and Mail

A student’s request to be excused from course work on religious grounds so he would not have to interact with female peers has opened a fractious debate over how institutions navigate between competing human rights.

J. Paul Grayson, a sociology professor at York University, received the request in September and denied it, arguing it would give tacit support to a negative view of women. But the dean of the faculty of arts disagreed and has ordered him to grant the accommodation.

A standoff has ensued over the degree to which religious accommodation is reasonable at a public, secular university. Dr. Grayson argues that approving the request would make him “an accessory to sexism,” and could give others a precedent to avoid interacting with students of a given race, creed or sexual orientation. Martin Singer, the dean, countered that the school is legally obliged to heed the student’s wishes, and other students would not be seriously affected.

The debate highlights a tension that arises when asserting one person’s rights collides with those of another and the two must be made to coexist. The solutions can be especially provocative at universities, which must champion respect for human rights while nurturing diverse beliefs.

Dr. Grayson has continued to refuse the request, at the risk of possible discipline. Neither he nor the university can identify the student or his religion for privacy reasons.

“You have to nip this in the bud, because what you’re dealing with here is a basic hornet’s nest,” Dr. Grayson said in an interview. “What if … I said, well, my religion really frowns upon my interacting with blacks?”

The student is taking an online course, but is expected to meet in person with a group of classmates for a mandatory assignment. Dr. Grayson said the student argued that “due to my firm religious beliefs … it will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women.”

Dr. Grayson sent the request to Dr. Singer and the director of the university’s Centre for Human Rights, Noël Badiou, seeking support. But the dean’s office said that because Dr. Grayson exempted a student who is taking the course abroad from meeting with a group at York, the other student should be treated the same.

“Each request for accommodation based on religious beliefs is considered based on the facts in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code,” Rhonda Lenton, York’s provost, said in an e-mail. But she also said the case is “complicated” by the fact that alternate arrangements were made for the other student to complete the work.

“Students often select online courses to help them navigate all types of personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to attend classes on campus, and all students in the class would normally have access to whatever alternative grading scheme had been put in place,” she said.

In a series of confidential letters, Dr. Singer also argued that granting the request “does not, in my opinion, qualify as a ‘substantial impact’ on any other student’s rights.”

To grant a religious accommodation, the university must decide the beliefs are sincere, and that it will not interfere with other students’ experience or harm the course’s academic integrity.

The school’s human rights centre agreed with the dean. But on Oct. 9, the sociology department sided with Dr. Grayson, passing a motion stating, “Whereas it is recognized that York recognizes diversity, be it resolved that academic accommodations for students will not be made if they contribute to material or symbolic marginalizations of other students, faculty or teaching assistants.”

The next day, Dr. Grayson denied the student’s request.

The dean’s office told the student if he wished to drop the course, the fee would be refunded. But less than a week later, the student told Dr. Grayson he would “respect the final decision” to deny the request, was pleased with the way it had been handled, and has since met with his learning group. Even so, York has not changed its stand.

“What concerns me is that there’s an apparatus there that says this kind of thing’s okay, and you could have other students making similar requests,” Dr. Grayson said. “... There is room here for decision-making, and as far as I’m concerned, York has made the wrong decision.”
 
EagleSmack
+5
#2  Top Rated Post
Respect his beliefs and give him an "F" for the assignment.
 
gerryh
+1
#3
The second last paragraph makes this a tempest in a teapot.
 
Goober
#4
They compared this and used the below to agree to the students request. How one can be compared with the other is well.....
Dr. Grayson sent the request to Dr. Singer and the director of the university’s Centre for Human Rights, Noël Badiou, seeking support. But the dean’s office said that because Dr. Grayson exempted a student who is taking the course abroad from meeting with a group at York, the other student should be treated the same.
 
gerryh
+1
#5
The dean’s office told the student if he wished to drop the course, the fee would be refunded. But less than a week later, the student told Dr. Grayson he would “respect the final decision” to deny the request, was pleased with the way it had been handled, and has since met with his learning group. Even so, York has not changed its stand.
 
karrie
+2
#6
An organization needed to make a decision about how to accommodate one of its members. It did so, and all parties are content with the decision.


*yawn*
 
damngrumpy
+2
#7
We must also be aware of setting a precedent. Eagle made a good point
perhaps respecting his rights is correct rights come with responsibilities
and responsibilities have consequences. Respect his rights and give him
a fail for not being there The reason I agree in this case is we are dealing
with a secular institution not a religious one.
 
captain morgan
+2
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post

The dean’s office told the student if he wished to drop the course, the fee would be refunded. But less than a week later, the student told Dr. Grayson he would “respect the final decision” to deny the request, was pleased with the way it had been handled, and has since met with his learning group. Even so, York has not changed its stand.


The notion that this issue went as far as it did is what is of concern
 
Cannuck
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

An organization needed to make a decision about how to accommodate one of its members. It did so, and all parties are content with the decision.


*yawn*

Some people just need to find problems somewhere.
 
karrie
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

The notion that this issue went as far as it did is what is of concern



It's a college. It's a massive collective of people from different backgrounds, working and teaching. Each student is a paying customer, trying to get the most for their money, yet the professors are an authority over that paying customer. It's a unique and tricky atmosphere. The fact that someone thought it was okay to accommodate him isn't troubling. Personally, as a woman, if some guy doesn't want to do group work because of women, let him leave. No one on this forum complains about the misogynist who constantly moans and groans about how men should be recognized as better than women, but someone at a college simply states that their religion dictates the sexes not mingle, and people get upset? Psh.

BTW.... to answer the title of the thread.... not wanting the sexes to mingle for religious reasons does not in itself equal sexism. Alternately, being around women does not mean you're not a sexist.
 
captain morgan
+1
#11
I see it as the tail wagging the dog.

Buddy signed-up for that course with full knowledge (as per the calendar and course outline that are published) that group work was a requirement, it's not as if this was a surprise sprung on him.
 
karrie
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

I see it as the tail wagging the dog.

Buddy signed-up for that course with full knowledge (as per the calendar and course outline that are published) that group work was a requirement, it's not as if this was a surprise sprung on him.

And he was also willing to do it when they turned down his request. Seems like an overreaction to a question.


I've asked before when writing a university exam, if it would be possible for me to sit at the back of the class and stand up to stretch midway through the exam (since not all people in the room were writing the same exam). Had they said no, fine. But was it wrong to ask if I could be accommodated? Tail wagging the dog? Well, the tail paid for the dog, may as well try.
 
captain morgan
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

And he was also willing to do it when they turned down his request. Seems like an overreaction to a question.

It's not like he had a choice

Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

I've asked before when writing a university exam, if it would be possible for me to sit at the back of the class and stand up to stretch midway through the exam (since not all people in the room were writing the same exam). Had they said no, fine. But was it wrong to ask if I could be accommodated?

It is the justification for the accommodation that is at issue here... How about if you 'requested' that you be exempt from writing any exams whatsoever because your spiritual leader forbade it?


Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Tail wagging the dog? Well, the tail paid for the dog, may as well try.

The 'tail' is paying for the delivery of a service. This 'service' is highly defined as to what will be provided and details that the recipient of said service maintains responsibilities in the equation... The service provider has the rights to sever the relationship in the event that the recipient does not fulfill their end of the deal.
Last edited by captain morgan; Jan 9th, 2014 at 06:08 PM..
 
Sal
#14
to me it sounds like the request was made by the student on religious grounds, it was denied to him, and thus he did not have to follow religious protocol

I think it should have been denied.
 
karrie
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

It is the justification for the accommodation that is at issue here... How about if you 'requested' that you be exempt from writing any exams whatsoever because your spiritual leader forbade it?



Then they'd discuss and rule on it. Like they do for dozens of issues a year. It's not rocket science, it's people management.
 
captain morgan
+1
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Then they'd discuss and rule on it. Like they do for dozens of issues a year. It's not rocket science, it's people management.

It never should have made it to the point of discussion in the first place. The 'contract' between the student and college is clear
Last edited by captain morgan; Jan 9th, 2014 at 06:17 PM..
 
darkbeaver
+1
#17
The dung disturbing machine at work. People management for sure. Who's being managed?
 
karrie
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

It never should have made it to the point of discussion in the first place. The 'contract' between the student and college is clear


No, it's not. They make accommodations all the time for all sorts of reasons. As the article stated, someone else had been excused from the group work. He had every right to ask.
 
captain morgan
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

No, it's not. They make accommodations all the time for all sorts of reasons. As the article stated, someone else had been excused from the group work. He had every right to ask.


He didn't ask as much as he dictated that his religious beliefs forbade his participation... AGAIN, the contract between student and school is clear and this element of the course was published in advance of his agreeing to enter into that contract.

Quite frankly, use of the word 'accommodation' is a real stretch, bordering on abusing the system... You'll notice that he didn't 'request' to be in an all male group now, did he?

There is another issue at hand here identified (indirectly) by the professor and that is the other students (who also paid their money) are being denied their full value due to the refusal of this moron's participation (for what it would be worth).
 
Goober
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

No, it's not. They make accommodations all the time for all sorts of reasons. As the article stated, someone else had been excused from the group work. He had every right to ask.

And it was granted by the Human Right Board of the University- Then the dept refused to endorse it.


The student is taking an online course, but is expected to meet in person with a group of classmates for a mandatory assignment. Dr. Grayson said the student argued that “due to my firm religious beliefs … it will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women.”

Dr. Grayson sent the request to Dr. Singer and the director of the university’s Centre for Human Rights, Noël Badiou, seeking support. But the dean’s office said that because Dr. Grayson exempted a student who is taking the course abroad from meeting with a group at York, the other student should be treated the same.

“Each request for accommodation based on religious beliefs is considered based on the facts in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code,” Rhonda Lenton, York’s provost, said in an e-mail. But she also said the case is “complicated” by the fact that alternate arrangements were made for the other student to complete the work.

“Students often select online courses to help them navigate all types of personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to attend classes on campus, and all students in the class would normally have access to whatever alternative grading scheme had been put in place,” she said.

In a series of confidential letters, Dr. Singer also argued that granting the request “does not, in my opinion, qualify as a ‘substantial impact’ on any other student’s rights.”

To grant a religious accommodation, the university must decide the beliefs are sincere, and that it will not interfere with other students’ experience or harm the course’s academic integrity.


The school’s human rights centre agreed with the dean. But on Oct. 9, the sociology department sided with Dr. Grayson, passing a motion stating, “Whereas it is recognized that York recognizes diversity, be it resolved that academic accommodations for students will not be made if they contribute to material or symbolic marginalizations of other students, faculty or teaching assistants.”


Seems the Dean and the HR Board do not and did not get that.
 
karrie
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

He didn't ask as much as he dictated that his religious beliefs forbade his participation... AGAIN, the contract between student and school is clear and this element of the course was published in advance of his agreeing to enter into that contract.

Quite frankly, use of the word 'accommodation' is a real stretch, bordering on abusing the system... You'll notice that he didn't 'request' to be in an all male group now, did he?

There is another issue at hand here identified (indirectly) by the professor and that is the other students (who also paid their money) are being denied their full value due to the refusal of this moron's participation (for what it would be worth).


Requesting an all male group be formed, would be asking sexist practices be put into place by the university/college, to accommodate his religious beliefs. Are you implying that's something they *should* have done? That would be him requesting that they treat other people differently for his sake.


As for the other students, when you take an online course, you are never guaranteed fellow students. You aren't guaranteed the participation of any other students either.
Last edited by karrie; Jan 9th, 2014 at 07:44 PM..
 
Goober
+2
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Requesting an all male group be formed, would be asking sexist practices be put into place by the university/college, to accommodate his religious beliefs. Are you implying that's something the *should* have done? That would be him requesting that they treat other people differently for is sake.


As for the other students, when you take an online course, you are never guaranteed fellow students. You aren't guaranteed the participation of any other students either.

To me it appears the University was split on this. The HR Board and Dean going one way- The dept going what I consider the right way.
And from that I would assume it consumed much time and effort on everyone's part.
 
taxslave
+3
#23
I wonder what this moron does when he has a female instructor?
 
karrie
+1
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by taxslaveView Post

I wonder what this moron does when he has a female instructor?



I suspect that's likely reason he was going the route of online courses.


Also, for people who have religious rules about socializing with the opposite sex, that doesn't necessarily include large classes where you go, learn, leave, minus socializing. It's the small group in a coffee shop that's 'problematic'.
 
Cannuck
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

I suspect that's likely reason he was going the route of online courses.


Also, for people who have religious rules about socializing with the opposite sex, that doesn't necessarily include large classes where you go, learn, leave, minus socializing. It's the small group in a coffee shop that's 'problematic'.

Hutterites don't eat together but they shop together
 
karrie
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by CannuckView Post

Hutterites don't eat together but they shop together



Exactly.
 
Goober
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by CannuckView Post

Hutterites don't eat together but they shop together

Do they work together?

More comes out - the original policy is still in place- and as of today is still Official policy at York.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01...ate-officials/

Nevertheless, the rejection incensed university brass. According to Mr. Grayson, on October 18, he received a letter from the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies ordering him to accommodate the student’s wishes.

As per documents provided by the professor, one of the keystones of the Dean’s position is the assertion that allowing the student to opt out of female interaction would not affect the “experience of other students in the class”—provided the professor kept quiet about it.

In an October 18 email, the Dean specifically told Mr. Grayson that if he was worried about the “course experience of our female students” he would make sure they “are not made aware of the accommodation.”

The Dean dismissed the November survey, saying he was not “persuaded that other students’ political views on the subject are either a relevant or an appropriate consideration.”

“I am unpersuaded that it is even arguable that the non-participation of this one male student in group work affects in any way any other student’s human rights,” he wrote.

As York’s winter semester kicks off, said Mr. Grayson, the order is still standing.

“There’s been no reversal of position,” he said.
Last edited by Goober; Jan 9th, 2014 at 08:47 PM..
 
captain morgan
+1
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Requesting an all male group be formed, would be asking sexist practices be put into place by the university/college, to accommodate his religious beliefs.

Buddy never made the request. I was not suggesting that the college offer it as a solution, although in the spirit of 'accommodation' it falls into the same logic as this individual's requirement to have no contact with women.


Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Are you implying that's something they *should* have done? That would be him requesting that they treat other people differently for his sake.

Getting back to the contractual agreement that exists between the parties; in complying with his demand for segregation, they would have been treating people differently for his sake

Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

As for the other students, when you take an online course, you are never guaranteed fellow students. You aren't guaranteed the participation of any other students either.

The information would have been published in the course outline, especially if it was a requirement... This was not a secret that he was required to have personal contact on one occasion with other students.

No amount of what-ifs will change these facts
 
gerryh
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Buddy never made the request. I was not suggesting that the college offer it as a solution, although in the spirit of 'accommodation' it falls into the same logic as this individual's requirement to have no contact with women.




Getting back to the contractual agreement that exists between the parties; in complying with his demand for segregation, they would have been treating people differently for his sake



The information would have been published in the course outline, especially if it was a requirement... This was not a secret that he was required to have personal contact on one occasion with other students.

No amount of what-ifs will change these facts


This is all moot, as I have already pointed out, he complied with his professors decision AND participated. He also stated he was happy with what was done and the outcome.
 
captain morgan
+1
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post

This is all moot, as I have already pointed out, he complied with his professors decision AND participated. He also stated he was happy with what was done and the outcome.

As I mentioned earlier, this issue never should have made it to the point that it did.

In my opinion, it speaks volumes relative to the individualistic nature of society and I think that it is a destructive influence
 

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