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When Sensitivity Becomes Destructive

When Sensitivity Becomes Destructive

It sounds like a headline from The Onion: “Jewish prof forced to defend himself against anti-Semitism claims.” 

Cameron Johnston, who has been teaching at York [University] for more than 30 years, has been forced to respond to allegations that he made anti-Semitic remarks in a lecture on Monday afternoon after a student misunderstood his comments and began sending emails to Jewish groups and the media.

Johnston was giving his introductory lecture to Social Sciences 1140: “Self, Culture and Society,” when he explained to the nearly 500 students that the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

“All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.

He didn’t notice Sarah Grunfeld storm out. Grunfeld, a 22-year-old in her final year at York, understood Johnston’s example to be his personal opinion.

She contacted Oriyah Barzilay, the president of Hasbara at York — an Israel advocacy group on campus — who then sent a press release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for Johnston to be fired.

The source I got the link from already made the point that “some students simply do not have the basic powers of concentration and comprehension required for college work–not to mention, of course, that there are way too many rewards to hypersensitivity and public offense taking.”

I would add that it doesn’t say much for the girl that she thought nearly 500 people wouldn’t storm out after making such an awful comment (assuming, of course, it had been in seriousness).

I would not want to live in a society where that speech is tolerated —  but if enough people cry murder when there is no wrongdoing, I fear the weight of the charge will be lost over time.

What does Sarah Grunfeld have to say on the matter?

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”


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VetHusbandFather | September 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

OMG! She just said ‘Jews should be sterilized’ I still think that’s pretty serious. #attackwatch #positivefeedbackloop

LOL – ya what they said too.

I believe the professor is correct, “and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion”. Little miss Sarah Grunfeld should not be entitled to her opinion in this case.

What is very scary is that Oriyah Barzilay, the president of Hasbara at York did not bother to investigate before putting out a press release. The other thing is that I wonder if she contacted her advisor or any member of the administration before spreading her garbage. And she is in her finally year, to know she cannot process what is actually said or verify before jumping down someone.

    PERSON in reply to Lizard. | September 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    “Lizard” I am Oriyah, and with your talk I am wondering why you didnt investigate before commenting. The Star misquoted me. I did not put out any Hasbara press release. They called me in order to get Sarah’s number.

    And “gs” would you like to warn and reprimand the hundreds of people that sent in emails as well?

      Awing1 in reply to PERSON. | September 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      What would there have been to research? Press releases are generally only sent to the press, unless by an organization large enough that they just put it on their website. As the York chapter of Hasbara does not appear to have a solidified presence on the web, all that anyone has to go off of is the word of the press.

If he demands an apology or, worse, threatens to sue, will he be referred for counseling? Or will the whole thing just be swept under the rug? (Really, it sounds like the guy deserves one hell of an apology)

Wondering if she decided to drop the class?

Kathleen, you say, “I would not want to live in a society where that speech is tolerated,” but do you do live in a society where that speech is tolerated (outside academia, that is). It’s called the First Amendment. Or am I misunderstanding your comment?

    DINORightMarie in reply to Freddy Hill. | September 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I agree with you 100% on this one, @Freddy. (My last two paragraphs are for you, too, Kathleen.)

    Also, I question intellect of this girl, the logic of this poor student, Grunfeld.

    What does Sarah Grunfeld have to say on the matter?

    “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

    Let’s see, to tell the world that Nazis believed that “Jews should be sterilized” to show their anti-Semitic beliefs, and to expose the dangers of eugenics – the “science” that led to the Holocaust, is hate speech?! To follow this lady’s logic, just to utter those words is uber-offensive to the point that the words should be banned. Really?!? Just how do you explain the crime or the sick rationale without uttering the words? Hmmmmm, genius?

    She sounds like she needs remedial Logic courses, along with some education on fascism and totalitarianism – or Mao and Stalin, perhaps.

    Sarah Grunfeld, you need to get an education!! I sure hope you haven’t spent a fortune on your “university” studies….. Hello, York University, are you listening?!

    To forbid speech is the first essential step toward establishing a tyrannical regime. Ban books, media, and any speech that is “unacceptable” by the tyrant’s terms; next, remove the right to bear arms.

    Oppressing a people or society is easy, then. It’s all been done before.

Kathleen McCaffrey | September 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Freddy, It was a crappy choice of words but there’s a difference between “tolerating” and “banning.” By “not tolerated” I mean I would hope that, if a professor had said that, the entire class would walk out in protest. I wouldn’t want to punish him physically or hold him in contempt.

Ok, now I’ll say something objectionable and inflammatory.
How’s “this oversensitive and concentration-challenged college girl should be smacked on the head like a misbehaving Labrador”?
There. Now, someone report me.

What a mope. Now that she’s had her fifteen minutes of fame, Sarah G will hopefully crawl back into whatever hole from whence she emanated.

Is this actionable defamation in Ontario?

No problemo. It’s Canada. It can’t happen here. No, no, no, it can’t happen here.

What? Huh? No way. Shrugs (slinks off, stage right).

Professor Johnston likely has no clue that a student in her final year of university education can’t comprehend a sentence longer than 140 characters. Sad.

I get the idea this clueless student is not actually paying for her education with her own money… This might be her only way to get on the evening news.

Some of you guys really like to beat up on Kathleen. Can’t we all quit sniping amongst ourselves and just focus on the true enemy: anyone who’s ever said or thought a negative thing about Sarah Palin or her electability?

Wait…er, I kinda forgot about the great Palinista fatwa against her for a post last year. Sorry, Kathleen, guess you’re on your own.

    Kathleen handles herself very well so I wouldn’t worry about anyone being hard on her.

    You talk about criticism as if it’s a bad thing. Particularly on here we should all be criticizing the arguments of each other, so that when we discuss these issues with others, our arguments are flawless. A correct conclusion with a poor argument doesn’t do anyone any good.

      Cowboy Curtis in reply to Awing1. | September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      While I most certainly think some of the old-time commenters harbor certain resentments towards Kathleen for her mildest of mild criticism of Palin in one of her early posts (which I encourage everyone to view the reaction to as illustration to my point), I assure you the comment was stated with tongue thoroughly in cheek. Consider it a good-natured jab at some of the more sensitive types of a certain stripe that frequent LI, and their knee-jerk reaction to any criticism of a certain former governor. Kathleen is a big girl, and I expect she is more than adequate to the task of defending herself.

        William A. Jacobson in reply to Cowboy Curtis. | September 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm

        Every blog needs a blog historian.

        Several persons have brought up Kathleen’s post about Palin. That’s water over the dam already. I don’t agree with everything any blogger writes. Whether I do or not, I always learn through the exchanging of opinions on the blog. These blogs allow us to vent (within reason) and that’s a good thing.

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1. This reminds me of the mess at Widener Law School.

2. I don’t expect Johnston to be fired, but it won’t surprise me if the York administration subjects him to some formal proceeding, thereby advancing their power at the expense of the faculty’s.

If the facts are as presented, my prescription would be to suspend Gutfeld for a semester for disrespect to a faculty member, and to warn & reprimand Barzilay.

All right, no one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Even…and I want to make this absolutely clear… even if they do say, “Jehovah. “

“What does Sarah Grunfeld have to say on the matter?

‘The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.'”

What would this mindless idiot done if the professor had said “Eva Braun said, ‘I love Adolf Hitler!'”

How can any human be so utterly brainless after 4 or more years in a college? She should be suing the college for educational malpractice. Except she isn’t educated enough to know it has happened.

    You can lead a kid to university, but you can’t make ’em think.

    WarEagle82 in reply to WarEagle82. | September 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Ahhhhh. So that’s how you do it. You just put “blockquote” and “/blockquote” between <>’s at the start and end of the quoted text respectively…

    “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

What happened to the world in which I grew up?

    I have had a similar thought lately, reflecting on grade school in the mid 50’s, when a frequently used and unanswerable retort was: “It’s a free country.”

I don’t suppose we know what this student is majoring in?

Very likely this girl wasn’t paying any attention to the professor but the words “all Jews should be sterilized” sifted through her conscience but nothing else. She can’t admit her mind was elsewhere, so she can’t back down. I find it hard to understand any other explanation of how a college senior could have taken the professor’s statements. This was a social science course, right? If she was offended by that remark, how in the world would she get through the rest of the course? Some people are so super sensitive that they look for offensive remarks that the speaker never intended. As in this case.

Sarah Grunfeld should have had enough sense to understand the context in which the words were first spoken. Oriyah Barzilay should have completely checked it out before taking any action. And again, Sarah Grunfeld is totally wrong to say that the words still came out of his mouth – effectively displaying her complete ignorance about context yet again.

Sariah Grunfeld should be thrown out because she isn’t there to learn nor has she learned anything since she has been there. There is therefore no need to prolong the absurdity of her attendance. Furthermore, Grunfeld is so stupid, she will reflect poorly on York after she graduates.

This soap opera will now go on at York because the academic world has been dominated by the left for far too long.

Now lets consider how this may have played out in the corporate world.

Imagine that a department manager is giving a training talk about some subject and a low level employee gets up, makes a scene and then reports the manager to his seniors for saying something he did not actually say.

Upper level management then makes a call to the manager who was giving the talk to ascertain exactly what happened. After figuring out that the employee is way off base, senior management then checks with HR to see if the employee has any history of mental illness or irrational behavior. HR reports no such history.

Senior management then instructs HR to compose a termination letter and have a security guard and 2 people from HR help the employee pack up her belongings before they escort her out of the building. She gets no severance and is told not to enter the premises ever again or she will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Within 2 hours (maybe 3) after the occurrence, the matter has been resolved.

Words you can’t say:
Well, what ARE they?
We can’t say them. But YOU will be punished if YOU do!

(wasn’t that a Monte Python skit?)

My office is directly across the street from York U., I’ve had several family and friends who have attended there and, in fact, at one time, many years ago, I briefly worked on campus, albeit, not part of the faculty. The student body is heavily populated with Jews and Asians. Believe me, had Prof. Johnston’s words been intended to slight the Jews, it would have been the equivalent of a suicide bomber maneuver,in terms of his career. The young lady involved deserves whatever fallout comes her way, but I hope that her irresponsible actions have been a valuable learning opportunity for all other students at York.

When I look back on how damn dumb I was at 22, I thank the Lord for clearing my path. Way back then we didn’t have the means to transmit our ignorance to the world. Our muddled thinking and flawed behavior was on display for a rather limited audience. Why, I even voted for Democrats a time or two. I’m glad I grew up back in the day. Let’s hope Ms. Grunfeld learns an appropriate life lesson here.


The point you make is exactly what got Mark Steyn hounded by Canada’s “Human Rights Council” for quoting the Muslims in his book “America Alone”.
It is absolutely crazy now that one cannot someone’s very own words to illustrate a point.

That girl’s father should ask York for his money back. He should ask her mother for a do over. Maybe they can produce something besides a blithering idiot.

[…] » When Sensitivity Becomes Destructive – Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion It sounds like a headline from The Onion: “Jewish prof forced to defend himself against anti-Semitism claims.” […]

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