November 26, 2008
When PC meets petty
The Carleton University Students' Association has voted to drop a cystic fibrosis charity as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, supporting a motion that argued the disease is not "inclusive" enough.
Cystic fibrosis "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" said the motion read Monday night to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it.
Every year near the beginning of fall classes, during university orientation for new arrivals, students fan out across the city and seek donations from passersby. According to the motion, "all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their (sic) diverse communities."
Nick Bergamini, a third-year journalism student on the student council, said he was the only elected councillor present to vote against the motion. The decision is an example of campus political correctness gone too far, he said.
"They're not doctors. They're playing politics with this," said Mr. Bergamini. "I think they see this, in their own twisted way, as a win for diversity. I see it as a loss for people with cystic fibrosis."
Yes -- and not least because it's not even true that cystic fibrosis primarily affects white men. Girls get it just as often as boys do, says the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation CEO Cathleen Morrison. Morrison adds that while CF is widely understood to be a "Caucasion" disease, that is a broad designation that includes people from the Middle East, South America, North Africa, and India. "'Caucasian' as we understand it isn't just white people," Morrison says. "It includes people with a whole rainbow of skins."
Callow. Petty. Stupid. Cynical. Crass. Anti-intellectual. Exploitative. All in the name of inclusion. The good news is that the students, now apprised of their massive error, are willing to reconsider their decision. But that still leaves us all with the unpleasant aftertaste of their decision to abandon a time-honored charitable effort because the perceived beneficiaries aren't demographically worthy enough.
Cystic fibrosis is fatal, no matter who has it -- though life expectancy has doubled in recent years, thanks to research funded by endeavors such as Shinearama. Median life expectancy for CF sufferers is now 37.
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The decision has been reversed by the students:
Oy gevalt. Charitable efforts to fight a serious disease critiqued on grounds of diversity? What the hell is the world coming to?
Yeah, pretty dumb. As punishment the students should have been made to watch the CF classic, Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.
I had a cousin who had CF. He made it 18. The fact that he was white and male makes it no less sad that he died so young, and had so much difficulty while he was here.
What's next? Breast cancer awareness gets funded, but prostate cancer awareness does not, because older men (I have no idea whether there's a racial inequality in who gets prostate cancer) have not racked up enough "victim" points?
One wonders whether a charity to raise money for sickle-cell anemia, which overwhelmingly impacts those with African descent, would get the same treatment from these students. It's a much less "inclusive" disease than CF!