Letter published in today's Toronto Star, on Ryerson University's award of an honorary degree to ethicist Margaret Somerville:
As a Ryerson graduate, I commend the university for standing by its decision to award an honorary degree to Margaret Somerville. The academic council committee put it well in its statement that says, in part, "If we withdraw the award, then we demonstrate that as a university we show tolerance for some contestable views but not others."
In recent years it seems that many in the gay community — having now checked off most of their own agenda items — have forgotten the meaning of tolerance. They also seem to have forgotten that it is unpopular views that test the limits of tolerance and that their views were once in that category.
Joan Tintor, Toronto
Postscript: I heard on CFRB yesteday that Ryerson had no idea about Somerville's "controversial" views on same-sex marriage. Not doing a news database search on people being considered for honorary degrees is a bit careless and it reflects badly on Ryerson that this basic due diligence was not done.
Had they found the news stories about her testimony before Parliament and decided not to honor her because of her position on gay marriage, I would have had no quarrel with that -- there is no "right" to receive an honorary degree and universities are free to base them on whatever criteria they wish.
But Somerville is being honored for her academic work, not her views on same-sex marriage, and rescinding the degree after it had already been publicly announced would have been unfair to Somerville and sent the wrong message, as per the quote from Ryerson above.