By Kelly Townsend
A University of Toronto student brought sexism issues in the classroom back into the headlines this week after making a human rights complaint on account of his shyness around women.
A report by the Toronto Star revealed that the student, Wongene Daniel Kim, issued a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, stating that his women and gender studies professor was discriminating against him for his gender.
Kim said he felt anxiety about the class due to the fact that he was the only male student. He refused to attend classes and received a failing grade from his professor.
Students from Humber College had mixed reaction to the news. Carla Martinez, 18, a first year bachelor of nursing student lent some advice to Kim, saying, “Get over it. Build yourself a bridge, and get over it.”
Jey Ma, 27, a first year hospitality management student, says, “I completely support that guy. People come to college to study, they have the right to do anything they want.”
Kim is not the only male student to say he felt uncomfortable around female students.
Last month, a York University student caused a heated debate between a professor and the university administration when he said he could not work with women in the classroom on the grounds of religious reasons.
Administration approved the student’s request, which led to his professor, Paul Grayson, to go public with his outrage over the decision, saying the school’s secular policies do not adhere to requests of that nature.
The student did eventually participate in the study group.
Martin Singer, the dean of arts at York, wrote a letter to his colleges, obtained by the Globe and Mail, defending his decision.
“I want to assure each of you of my unwavering commitment to gender equity and of my sincere regret that, given the specific circumstances of this request for accommodation, I was obliged to conclude that the student’s request had to be accommodated,” Martin wrote.
In an opinion letter to the Globe and Mail, Grayson responded to the public outcry over the university’s decision, and gave his insight into the problem of adhering to religious requests.
“If situations like this one allow religious rights to trump gender rights, then the code is out of touch with the values of Canadians of all faiths,” Grayson wrote. “As a result, it lacks credibility among a large segment of the population.”
Male discrimination complaints have been a troubling social issue in Toronto campuses.
In November 2012 a lecture by a men’s and women’s rights author Warren Farrell at the University of Toronto was protested by students and led to intervention from Toronto Police. As well, student unions at Ryerson University have previously blocked the creation of men’s issue clubs.
Human rights and equity centres from Humber College, York University and the University of Toronto were unavailable for comment.