Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Politically correct idiocy at Queen's University

Metroblog has brought to my attention an apparent real life caricature of political correctness. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, Queen's University is appointing a series of "student facilitators" who will have the job of "censuring" students who engage in various behavior deemed to be unacceptable. Some of the behavior discussed is offensive such as using "gay" as a slur. However, it is not at all clear to me why a University should be attempting to control speech in this fashion. At best, it seems like a waste of time.

But Metroblog noticed something in the article that really stands out and makes one wonder what the Queen's University administration was thinking. Included in the list of behavior which will receive "censure" is "If a student avoids a classmate's birthday party for faith-based reasons." I'm having trouble seeing how that is similar to calling someone "gay" as a slur or calling someone a "retard" (the second does not strike me as a big deal anyways. Sometimes you need a word to describe that someone is just not an intelligent person).

I, as well as everyone I've talked to about this, is puzzled about what this hypothetical has to do with the other situation. I had some difficulty thinking about what sort of situation they were talking about. Do they mean say an Orthodox Jew who would not go to a party on Friday night? Or maybe a Catholic not going to a party during Lent? Or a Muslim not going due to the presence of alcohol? How are any of these offensive? The closest I've been able to come to a minimally sensible interpretation in this context is a student who would not go to a party because there were gays dancing at the party (which actually is less halachicly problematic than mixed dancing).

The most coherent interpretation I have is that to someone birthdays are so important that it is unacceptably offensive to not attend them over silly religious obligations. If anyone has an interpretation that is more charitable or simply makes more, sense please post it.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago when I could not go to an event because it was the same time as Shabbat dinner. She remarked "That's so `gay', where by gay I mean Jewish." I wonder how the Queen's University facilitators would respond to that.


Etienne said...


So what happens to me if I avoid your birthday party for non-faith-based reasons, such as "I don't like you"? Expulsion?

Hunter said...

I'm pretty sure the case they're trying to catch with this rule is where a (say) Christian refuses to attend a (say) Muslim's birthday for the sole reason that the Muslim is Muslim. It's still a dumb rule, made even more so by the ridiculously over-broad interpretations the wording practically begs for.

Joshua said...

Hunter, that's the most coherent interpretation of the statement I've heard yet. But this only brings up the obvious question- if someone isn't willing to go to someone's birthday party over a religious division how will they end up knowing the person well enough to get an invitation?

Metro said...

Thanks for the link. And as for your "... and by gay, I mean Jewish," friend: People like her are the reason this sort of thing has to happen periodically.

One thing that occured to me was that the new generation of Uni students has grown up with the 'net, relative anonymity, and an instant gratification attitude.

It could be that civility is a casualty, requiring moderators for the supervision of conversation.

Joshua said...


It was pretty clear from the context that the friend was joking. And frankly all present found it hilarious. If someone doesn't, well then they should lighten up.

Moreover, even if it had reflected some sort of real bias the way to handle that is not censorship or "censuring." That isn't going to change anyone's viewpoints.

Metro said...

Sorry--I din't have context, and I've been spending time at some websites that make me outright ill. My sense of humour was momentarily disabled in order that I not get Poe'd.

The trouble with the Carleton business, to me, is that they're trying to institutionalize civilized behaviour that's best taught by example, not finger-wagging.

The good thought is there, the good idea is, alas, absent.

Golis said...

Ironically, this policy is discriminatory against Jehovah's Witnesses, who neither throw nor any birthday parties for religious reasons.

Will the next rule be censuring someone for refusing to eat pork with someone else for religious reasons?