Moral debates play a role in academic discourse

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Moral debates have no place in academia”
Feb. 12, 2008

To the editor:
I’m not writing to argue that what the Canadian Federation of Students did was right or wrong. I’m not even going to argue we should all be pro-life or pro-choice. I’m not here to debate anything. I’m here to address the misconception that universities are built solely to provide academic enrichment.

Universities are institutions of higher learning " of education and experience. Learning and education are about growth, not just in academic knowledge, but also about learning about who we are as individuals, as well as learning about the world around us.

To state that moral debates have no place in university is ridiculous. The fact is without these debates, we would never be challenged.

We would never have the opportunity to see someone else’s point of view and for a brief moment think to ourselves, “Maybe my view isn’t the right one.”

How can someone unsure of their opinion make an informed choice without learning about both sides?

University is an opportunity for all of us to become better human beings. By being allowed to listen, learn and understand, we open the door to progress, both within ourselves and our world. Denying students that opportunity would be unconscionable.
"Nicholas James Vafiades
Software Engineering IV

To the editor:
True, abortion is legal " but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right or should not be protested against if you disagree. [Sarah] implies that because abortion is legal, there is nothing protesting can do to change it or that we should just accept it.

In honor of Black History Month, why don’t we consider the civil rights movement against the legal practice of segregation and other horrible racist standards. Only through questioning and protest could there be change.

This is what pro-life groups are doing: they believe the government is wrong in its decision to legalize abortion, so they protest for change. I will make clear that I am adamantly pro-choice, so I’m not disagreeing with the legalization of abortion. I’m disagreeing with this particular premise for banning pro-life groups.

The second problem is with the logic of: “Abortion is a moral issue. Morals and academics are very different concepts. A university is a place of debate on academic issues. Therefore, arguments based on morals have no standing on a university campus.”

The conclusion does not logically follow the premise. Yes, abortion is a moral issue. Yes, morals and academics are different concepts.

But that does not mean they aren’t inextricably linked. In fact, the philosophy department devotes much of its focus to ethics (the study of morality).

The university as a whole is surrounded and dictated by moral and ethical codes of behaviour: researchers have to get approval from the ethics committee to pursue their studies, professors have moral duties to their students, students have a moral obligation to not plagiarize, etc.

So of course moral debates have a place in academia. Specifically, the debate on abortion has a place in academia if not only to foster healthy discussion, but ultimately because this debate will continue to affect our doctors, nurses, lawyers and citizens in training at Western. If indeed academia is no place for moral debate, I suppose the philosophy department has some big changes to make!
"Katie Doyle
Ethics/English IV

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