UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Sidebar: ‘Most students are very respectful of diverse political and religious views’

Rev. Ralph Carl Wushke, a United Church minister and ecumenical chaplain at the University of Toronto, talks about free speech on campus

By Justin Dallaire

Q Where do you stand on the debate between the need for free speech on campus and the call to create safe spaces for students who might feel victimized or marginalized?

A It’s complicated. Encouraging debate and critical thinking are among the purposes of universities. One of the dangers of some social media and mass movements is the creation of “echo chambers” where like-minded people cluster and reassure each other of the validity of their own views to the exclusion of others. Dissenters are not tolerated or are quickly “unfriended.” To the degree that free speech encourages the multiplication of perspectives and encourages people to test their own political correctness, that is not a bad thing. Free speech, providing it does not turn into hate speech, is essential for the advancement of critical thinking and transformation.

Courtesy of Ralph Carl Wushke
Courtesy of Ralph Carl Wushke

Q Has the pull toward secularism on campus infringed on religious free speech in any way?

A I don’t think so. Most undergraduate and graduate students are really very respectful of diverse political and religious views, of diverse religious and cultural identities. I find that the student-aged population as a large group, to use a sweeping generalization, is very respectful of religious diversity and world-view diversity.

Q What role can the interfaith community play in teaching about respectful dialogue or in modelling how people of opposite opinions can find common ground?

A Healthy interfaith dialogue has a lot to contribute. I don’t think it is so much about people of opposite opinions finding common ground — as laudable a goal as that may be — but a more profound goal: transformation. Process theologian John Cobb wrote about transformational dialogue, suggesting that interfaith dialogue is not a voyeuristic exercise in hearing descriptions about the “faith of others,” nor finding the lowest common denominator, but listening so intently to the other voices of faith that my own faith — and the understanding of it — may be transformed.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

Outrage is the new normal

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.


September 2017


by Jane Dawson

Restless longing is at the core of the human condition, urging us onward through life. What happens when it veers off course?


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Promotional Image