Sweet Zilch From the CPSA

We’ve heard nothing from the Canadian Political Science Association’s Board about what happened at their December meeting.

Rumour had it that the CPSA Women’s Caucus would ask the Board to issue a “protocol” about correct behaviour at academic panels. Here’s the version that was circulating last fall: “We [the Women’s Caucus] request that the CPSA Board create policy concerning (1) speech that promotes hatred or creates a hostile environment; and (2) the consequences of such speech. In particular, we would like guidelines concerning professional conduct during the Annual Meeting (for panels and all other formal and informal sessions). These guidelines should include instructions for session chairs, participants, and discussants. We also request the establishment of protocols for registering complaints and a process for their resolution.”

Did the Board consider this request? I’ve made inquiries but received no informative responses. “Bit of a tempest in a teapot,” said one respondent. He asked not to be named.

By all accounts there were hurt feelings all around at the session of Congress (UBC, spring of 2008) at which Frances Widdowson presented her thesis on mismanagement of aboriginal affairs in Canada. Hurt feelings and little fruitful engagement of issues. (See previous blogs: From Fierlbeck, November 2, 2008; Free Speech in Academe, September 10; Harvey Mansfield on Canada, August 28.) Widdowson’s argument was drawn from her book, written with Albert Howard, Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation (McGill-Queen’s University Press).

Her contention is that policies put forward to address problems of Canada’s native peoples are contributing to their misery. Respondents at the Congress session said that Widdowson lacks sympathy for the Aboriginal “narrative” and worldview. Does it all sound more or less like business as usual in academe? You would think. But some people concluded that Widdowson was “promoting hatred and creating a hostile environment.”

Getting everyone to play nice, be polite and get along is a big concern in universities these days.

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3 Responses to “Sweet Zilch From the CPSA”


  1. 1 Joseph Quesnel January 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    It is truly sad in this day and age that a cabal of ideologically-charged people can secretly plan to remove everyone’s right to speech and dissent with little opposition. Hey wait– this sounds like student union politics at many universities :) But, this is supposed to be about professional scholars in a public education environment.
    It is frightening that Prof. Widdowson cannot discover the name of her accusers and respond to them. They are permitted to hide under the cloak of anonymity. I wonder how many of those who actually put forward or contributed to this motion were actually in attendance at the session in question?
    It is very scary that this happened within the confines of mainstream academic political science. This sounds like an ideologically-driven native studies session, but when you realize it did not you quickly see how things have degenerated. This sends a definite chill to all students, myself included, studying or contemplating stuyding or writing about Aboriginal issues from a non-mainstream perspective.

  2. 2 Jim Hutchinson March 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    I’m surprised they didn’t haul Prof. Widdowson before a Human Rights Commission for “promoting hatred and creating a hostile environment.”

  3. 3 Bluenose January 7, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Here are my guidelines: start behaving like adults.


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