Julie Ponesse, a philosophy professor at Western University’s Huron College, says in a video that she is facing “imminent dismissal” by the university for her refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Western University has adopted a policy that says “all members of our community – including students, employees and visitors – who plan to be on campus this fall will be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination, except under rare exemptions.”
Ponesse’s refusal is not based on one of the allowable exemption categories (medical or religious) but rather on claims of bodily autonomy. “I’m entitled to make choices about what does and does not enter my body.” She says this is true “regardless of my reasons,” though her main concerns seem to be unfounded and unexplained worries about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccinations, and the mistaken idea that since being vaccinated won’t guarantee that she won’t catch or transmit COVID-19, it is ineffective.
While we are perhaps familiar with this kind of anti-vaccination misinformation and foolishness by now, what’s also interesting about this case, apart from the fact that this one features a philosophy professor, is Ponesse’s conception of her job. “My school employs me to be an authority on the subject of ethics… and I’m here to tell you it’s ethically wrong to coerce someone to take a vaccine.” As Sergio Tenenbaum comments, “Whenever an ethics prof says something like that they have admitted that either they don’t know what their job is or that they are not very good at it” (related). That said, it may be hasty to assume that what Ponesse says in this video is representative of her approach to her work in a classroom setting.
According to several reports, Western University has not fired Ponesse. The CBC relays this statement from a university spokesperson: “While I can’t comment on individual HR matters, I can confirm to you that at this time, no one at Huron has been dismissed as a result of this policy.”
(via Hane Maung)