In Support of Eldon Hay's “Crandall Scandal Scuttled!”
By Janet Hammock
For many years, many of us have been outspoken about the Crandall University situation, the history of which was explained with great clarity by Eldon Hay in today's online article.
Following a letter from Dr. Eldon Hay, and one from Dr. Bruce Fawcett, President of Crandall University, both printed in the Sackville Tribune-Post, I submitted a letter in response to these two letters which was printed almost verbatim in the February 27th, 2013 issue. All three of our letters can be read on the Sackville Tribune-Post's website (See Editors' Note below).*
Here is the text of my letter: “Recently the Sackville Tribune-Post published two letters to the editor about Crandall University. The first was by Dr. Eldon Hay, Professor Emeritus in Religious Studies at Mount Allison University, January 30th, and the second was penned by Dr. Bruce Fawcett, President of Crandall University, February 13th. I pondered over them for days.
Dr. Hay's letter points out that the Human Rights Act of NB protects the rights of religious institutions to deny equal rights to whomever they wish as long as it springs from faith-based reasons. He and many others -- including this writer -- have been disturbed that for several years Crandall accepted a $150,000 annual grant from the city of Moncton, while denying employment to an important segment of that city's tax-paying citizens. Dr. Hay notes that Dr. Fawcett, the new President, declined the grant in 2012, saying that the controversy was “a distraction”. The President indicated that he would review the situation in 2013, prompting Rev. Hay to ask the obvious question: “Will Crandall's retraction be retained?” and to offer his opinion that the days of a “private discriminating university receiving public funds are over.”
Dr. Fawcett's letter begins with praise for Dr. Hay as a scholar, researcher, writer, and teacher. He provides background information about Crandall University mentioning that some faith-based institutions in Canada receive public funding. He states that Crandall is an “important partner in New Brunswick society” (I assume he means the segment of NB society that is not glbt.) Crandall, because it is faith-based, saves New Brunswickers millions of dollars, Fawcett enthuses.
From this point on, Dr. Fawcett veers off in a disturbing direction. First of all, he says that in his letter Rev. Hay “calls” for Crandall to “abandon its lifestyle convictions”. Did he really? I reread Hay's letter carefully, searching for his “call”, but it was not to be found. Quite the opposite. Hay wrote that because a segment of the population is discriminated against in Crandall's hiring practices – its protected right to do so enshrined in the Human Rights Act of NB -- he applauds Dr. Fawcett's decision this year not to take public funding from Moncton, and hopes this will continue in future years. Prof. Hay writes with exceptional clarity so it surprises me that a university president was unable to grasp this important difference.
In the closing few sentences Dr. Fawcett shows his hand. Prof. Hay and all the rest of us who don't agree with public funding going to Crandall in the future, and who say so publicly, should “ cease to promote discrimination against Crandall and its supporters.” Fawcett warns that our continuing to speak out would be “a form of harassment and...religious persecution.” Shaking a paternal finger at his critics, he says “it would be better” for “critics” to learn to live with each other -- to shut up and get over it! Wow! As an academic myself, I must say that his expressed hope that critics will cease and desist is the exact opposite of what a true academic would say. Debate and the expression of differing points of view is encouraged – in fact, expected -- at all respected universities the world over. Sure, it's sometimes very upsetting to hear opposing viewpoints to one's own; that's why we have the tenure system at universities – to protect those who express unpopular points of view.
Many of us believe that when we see what we perceive as an injustice we need to speak out in words and in actions, but most of us lack the tenacity of Eldon Hay. He's like the proverbial dog with a bone -- he just doesn't let go. He doesn't forget. He doesn't get lazy. I can imagine it must feel extremely uncomfortable to be caught in the glare of Eldon Hay's principled spotlight as Crandall has been for the past few years.
I have a personal problem with one aspect of Dr. Fawcett's letter. As a lesbian person who took half a lifetime to discover my deepest, truest self in a loving relationship with my same sex partner, I take great offence at my gender identification being classified by Dr. Fawcett as a " lifestyle". That trivial Hollywoodish term for GLBT persons, that's bandied about on casual TV shows and talk radio, is insulting. I am not leading a “life style”, I am living my life. My being a lesbian is not a choice, a fad, or a frivolous fashion I am trying on, tra-la, like the flavour of the week. It's my life he is describing with this dismissive choice of word.
In closing, I invite everyone to read Chaplain Dr. John Perkin's insightful column Through Stained Glass in the February 14th Argosy,* Mount Allison University's student newspaper. He asks us to ponder the idea that the expression of deep love of another through the act of sex is a profoundly spiritual thing. It's a beautifully written article and made me feel blessed that I have experienced such a love with my partner for the past 17 years. John Perkin understands that the sexual act between two people who love each other deeply can be a transcendental, spiritual experience. There is a stark contrast between Rev. Perkin's understanding of sex and spirituality, and Dr. Fawcett's. Both men are Christians, both are Baptists, both read the Bible and seek to understand and follow its teachings as best they can, yet one excludes some people, while the other, like Jesus, opens his arms in love to all of God's children.
Dr. Janet Hammock, Sackville NB"
Janet Hammock is a concert pianist and Professor Emeritus of Music at Mount Allison University. She has been a leader of the Sackville/Amherst Chapter of PFLAG Canada for the past ten years. Janet is a champion of human rights, an outspoken advocate for LBGTQ equality, and continues to be inspired by the leadership shown by ally Eldon Hay and fellow activist Gerard Veldhoven.
- Editors' Note: Links to these letters on the Sackville Tribune-Post website are down. However Dr. Hammock has provided us with the dates of their publication: "Eldon Hay's letter was printed on January 30th on p.7, Fawcett's letter was printed on February 13th on p.7, my letter was printed on February 27th p. 7." Wayves Readers who'd like to read Rev. Perkin's column in The Argosy can find the February 14 archival issue by clicking here.