Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fast Talk: Inappropriate

I read in the news today that Carleton University's student's union has embarrassed itself by canceling its annual cystic fibrosis fundraiser on the grounds that the disease affects mainly white men, and why should they get any help? But what interests me most is the university's response. The President expressed "regret" over the decision and said the student union used language that was "inappropriate."

Leaving aside the issue of how one can regret something that someone else did, I'm really starting to chafe at the overuse of the word "inappropriate." To be sure, there are times when appropriateness of language is important, but it has become commonplace to reject any statement one objects to as "inappropriate." It's a nasty little trick, though. Nasty because it tends to head off any debate over the original utterance. One can't defend the original statement because it was never attacked as wrong, just inappropriate. And since what's appropriate is usually a matter of taste, the conversation typically ends there. Meanwhile the university president (or whoever) seems to take a thoughtful moral stand without having to actually take a stand on anything at all.

What the Carleton President should have said was that the student union's motion was wrong in its facts and shameful in its mean-spiritedness. But then I suppose I'm expecting too much for a leader of an institution of higher education.

Such courage would, I guess, be inappropriate.

1 comment:

Jessi said...

I laughed when I heard about that. I applied to 5 schools for social work carleton was the only one that rejected me. Perhaps a blessing in disguise?

Actually my contention with this statement was comes from the underlying assumption that diversity means only ethnic populations. Furthermore, what about all the bi-racial families? Stats are showing that trend is increasing.....

However, it is almost always impossible to expect a university institution to take a stand on anyting.....god knows we all know what a crapshoot that is....