The Silence of the Professors

August 31, 2021 Updated: September 2, 2021

Commentary

Recently there appeared a rousing “Statement of Non-Compliance with Mandatory Vaccination in Canadian Universities” by Maximilian Forte, professor of sociology at Concordia University (Forte also joined with others to publish an op-ed in the Toronto Sun against vaccine passports).

Forte’s online statement calls on university personnel across the country, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, to refuse to comply with their universities’ recent mandate that all students, staff, and instructors provide proof of vaccination in order to work on campus. At present, a large and growing number of Canadian universities have implemented vaccine policies, while those that haven’t are coming under pressure by their own faculty to do so. Perhaps Forte’s words can awaken the slumbering consciences of at least some of his fellow professors.

A vaccine mandate, Forte says, makes little sense as a public health measure, having no scientifically indisputable role in reducing COVID-19 transmission (in fact, countries, such as Israel, with the highest rates of vaccination, are currently experiencing increasing COVID-19 cases) and the mandate is in direct violation of various employment and human rights laws (as well as of the Nuremberg Code).

In particular, Forte points out, coercing healthy people into being vaccinated negates the principle of voluntary informed consent not only because consent “cannot be mandated, by definition” but also because members of the university community, some of them not even of legal drinking age, haven’t been advised of the adverse effects, including serious medical complications and even death, that can result from the vaccines. At universities claiming to place a high value on research ethics, this indifference to informed consent is deeply unsettling.

Forte explains further that the vaccine mandate is discriminatory, irrationally punitive (in that the unvaccinated pose no greater threat of passing on the virus than the vaccinated), and a “violation of human dignity.” It will stigmatize already marginalized individuals while denying individual bodily autonomy. For Forte, faculty members’ response to their universities’ coercive measure “will be, for most Canadian faculty, the first if not the only real test of their integrity and dignity, and their purpose as scholars and intellectuals. It is absolutely essential that they not fail this test from the start.”

Thus far, alas, the silence of the professors speaks volumes. While a few valiant individuals, such as University of Guelph viral immunologist Dr. Bryam Bridle and University of Saskatchewan professor of surgery Francis Christian, among others, have placed their careers and reputations on the line, the vast majority of professors have been unwilling or feel unable to speak out against the dictates of the Big Pharma-led political and media establishment.

If universities admitted upfront that their faculty members are merely elite state functionaries with aristocratic leanings, one could understand their quiescence. On the contrary, however, academics continually tout their alleged wider commitments in glowing rhetoric, claiming to fight for social justice (one can even get a degree in diversity and social justice studies), defend the marginalized, and “speak truth to power.” The typical stance of the “dissident” academic has been for many years that intellectuals should question everything, “especially widely accepted views and values, everything that has become ‘normality.’” Academics frequently defend the significance of their work by claiming to analyze, investigate, and illuminate how oppressive power structures operate, and how dominant narratives come to be seen as the only possible truth.

Students looking at the website of the University of Ottawa (one of the first universities to implement the vaccine policy), for example, are invited to “join a community of bold, caring and engaged people” that, as University of Ottawa President Jacques Frémont affirms, “hunger to tackle big problems, to disrupt, and to shape transformative solutions” with “an urgent sense of purpose.”

Yet for over a year and a half, with no concerted opposition from these same “bold” academics, a relatively innocuous virus, not lethal to the vast majority of the working-age population—and posing almost zero threat to people under 30—has been made the rationale for the suspension of Canadians’ rights in the form of widespread (and unevenly applied) lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings, business closures, church closures, denial of the right to peaceful protest, and ever-changing limitations on personal liberty, often brutally enforced through fines and arrests, all of them of dubious efficacy in saving lives. The imposition of “passports” separating the vaccinated from the unvaccinated—with all of the attendant fear-mongering, social division, and scapegoating—would seem an ideal occasion for academic analyses from a variety of social, cultural, religious, legal, medical, and scientific angles, as well as for robust criticism and active resistance.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the largest national body of Canadian academics, hasn’t encouraged its members to resist. CAUT claims to represent 72,000 members as “an outspoken defender of academic freedom” with the mission to “advance the social and economic interests of its members.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it organized workshops exploring the challenges for teachers of online learning, addressing “concerns about privacy, academic freedom, and intellectual property.” On the subject of vaccines, however, it has so far chosen to speak with a single, highly state-compliant voice.

A few weeks ago, CAUT endorsed “mandatory campus vaccination policies.” Such policies are justified, according to CAUT Executive Director Peter Robinson, so long as “human rights accommodations are followed; if the unvaccinated are accommodated through masking, physical distancing, or working or studying from home; and if all legal privacy issues are fully respected.” The position is almost laughably incoherent. Vaccines would not be in fact “mandatory” if unvaccinated persons could freely operate on campus merely by following masking and social distancing guidelines (and, notably, universities’ published vaccine policies don’t allow for regular exceptions).

How “working or studying from home” can possibly be accommodated at a time when the whole point of mandatory vaccines is to enable a return to on-campus instruction isn’t explained in the director’s statement; nor how “legal privacy issues” can be respected at a time when proof of vaccination is mandatory.

Is there no CAUT member with medical, ethical, philosophical, legal, or employment-related concerns about the vaccine mandate? None, it seems, who is given a voice through CAUT. CAUT has also singly failed to support or even express dismay over university professors harassed or disciplined as a result of their expressed opposition to vaccines, including Francis Christian, professor of surgery, who was suspended by the University of Saskatchewan for circulating a letter expressing his objection to the vaccination of children.

The long-term effects of the COVID vaccines are unknown, as is their short- to medium-term efficacy and necessity, making it far from clear that thousands of young people should be forced into a mass vaccination experiment. In this unprecedented situation, university professors’ claims to stand against state and corporate hegemony, in solidarity with the marginalized, ring hollow indeed.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Janice Fiamengo
Janice Fiamengo
Janice Fiamengo is retired professor of English at the University of Ottawa. Her latest book is “Sons of Feminism: Men Have Their Say.”