CHILLIWACK, British Columbia, October 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Two profs at the University of the Fraser Valley browbeat a Christian student for almost an hour for bringing up abortion in the classroom.
Then-student Valerie Flokstra secretly recorded that meeting which took place last year. Former classmates who recently heard that recording were shocked by what they heard and urged her to make it public. A full transcript of the recording she made of her meeting with the two profs is available on National Campus Life Network's blog.
Professor Nancy Norman and Department Head Vandy Britton ultimately told Flokstra that speaking about abortion made the classroom “unsafe.”
“So we don’t put forward ideas that are… intentionally or not… that are hateful. And I think sometimes abortion is one of those contentious issues that can make someone feel threatened on both sides,” said Britton.
Flokstra said that such comments made it appear as if the “program is about feeling safe” instead “about learning.” She said that she thought universities were “supposed to be places with freedom of speech and sharing ideas.”
“I kind of feel like you are shutting me down,” she said at one point.
“Freedom of speech is that you have the opportunity to share provided it isn’t hurtful of other people. That’s the mandate of the university,” said Britton.
At no time in the discussion did Britton or Norman ever mention an actual complaint from a student about the mention of abortion in the classroom. According to Flokstra, there was no such complaint.
Ruth Shaw, executive director of National Life Campus Network, described what happened to Flokstra as “bullying.”
“It's unfortunate to see Canadian professors bullying a student for mentioning a medical statistic that was relevant,” said Shaw in an interview.
Those who support abortion should examine their own consciences and consider why it is that any mention of abortion is so troubling to them, she added.
The national pro-life organization has not yet decided what its next steps will be with regards to the University of the Fraser Valley's treatment of Flokstra. Shaw is disturbed by the incident and what it reveals about the profs' attitudes towards pro-lifers.
Flokstra told LifeSiteNews that while the classroom environment may be “safe” for others, her experience was that it was not safe for Christians.
She recounted how during a previous meeting she had been told to keep her Christian identity to herself.
“All I could really remember was her saying that I had to put my Christian identity aside and put my teacher identity on top of that even though I assured her that my identity as a Christian helps me to deeply care about students as people and to be understanding of them,” she said.
Although the grad — who now works as a teacher in a private, Christian elementary school — felt welcome during her time studying physics and chemistry for her bachelor's degree of science, things changed for her when she then enrolled in the Teacher Education program.
“I would really like (the University of the Fraser Valley) to look into the Teacher Education program,” she said. “I was scared to be a Christian in that program.”
The University is so far refusing to discuss what happened to Flokstra.
When contacted, the university's director of communications, Dave Pinton, ignored questions about Britton and Norman's treatment of Flokstra. Instead, he quoted from the Teacher Education department's handbook.
It states: “The Teacher Education Department at UFV is committed to creating a respectful learning and working environment where the fundamental principles of human rights, as laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are upheld. The Teacher Education department is committed to providing accessible, usable, and welcoming spaces for all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, nationality and/or citizenship status.”
According to Pinton, students in the teacher education program are expected to uphold this commitment to respect and inclusivity in coursework, in field experiences and in their daily interactions with others.
Flokstra says the profs do not uphold this standard themselves, making some students feel uncomfortable.
“(The university will) want to look at whether the profs are really committed to that,” she said. “I want them to make sure the professors are creating a learning environment for all students, including Christians.”
University president and vice-chancellor Dr. Joanne MacLean did not return an invitation to comment on this story by deadline.
The incident smacks of then-teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd's case in which three Wilfred Laurier University faculty members reduced her to tears, berated her for creating a “toxic climate” in class for playing an interview clip of professor Jordan Peterson. They repeatedly suggested she’d broken Canada’s new law enforcing the use of gender-neutral pronouns. In Shepherd's case, too, there was no complaint filed by any student.
Wilfred Laurier University eventually apologized to Shepherd.
Respectful comments can be sent to the president and vice-chancellor of the University of the Fraser Valley here: [email protected]