Just when I thought I’d plumbed the depth of Administration stupidity with my entry entitled “The Dean’s Letter”, Pamela Lindsay, my part time research assistant and full time wife – has just brought to my attention what makes Matt Letts a mere wannabe. Ted Hewitt, President of SSHRC, Digvir Jayas, NSERC Vice-President of Council, and Michael Strong, President of CIHR, have all pledged to refuse “to participate on panels or in events that are not inclusive and do not reflect the diversity of the Canadian population.”
This is the kind of stupidity I’ve come to expect from senior Administration, but I’d have thought that people like this – e.g. Jagmeet Singh (see my entry, Why Jagmeet Singh Will Never Be Prime Minister) – would have had the resources to have someone edit their missives before pressing send. But alas not.
If Hewitt or Jayas or Strong were invited to give a stand-alone talk, I take it that that would count as an event. But if he’s the only speaker, the event couldn’t be diverse. Suppose he’s asked to serve on a panel, only to discover that the other panelists are as monochromatic and male as he is. Will he then refuse to take his chair on the dais? Do the attendees at an event have to be diverse, and if so, do they need to self-identify at the door or at some prior juncture? And what is the measure of their diversity? If he can’t speak at a men’s club, I take it neither can he speak to a women’s one. Or is it enough that if he speaks at one one week he speaks at the other the next?
When people are called on these stupidities the standard respond is, “Oh, you knew what I meant.” The problem is, no one did, and no one does. This is because he didn’t mean anything, by which is meant he didn’t mean anything. He was merely virtue-signalling, with absolute confidence that no one would be churlish enough to call him out on it. No one would call him on it because if she did she’d render her own virtue-signalling vulnerable to being called out. So it’s like a convention of faith-healers, each pretending that the other has caused her to walk again.
But hang on. No one likes to be called a fraud, much less to be the victim of it. In Hans Christian Andersen’s story, the tailors got their comeuppance, but the little boy get nothing for his trouble. So neither Hewitt nor Jayas nor Strong are going to thank my research assistance for her trouble any more than did Matt Letts thank me for mine. So yes, Pam and I are both casting pearls before swine, but I’m pretty sure this is not what that expression is meant to capture.