Well…my little gesture seems to have blown up more than I intended or expected. I’ve been a little busy the last couple of days, but it has been for the right reasons. Yesterday, I did a live chat on Stuff.co.nz. Afterwards, a good friend of mine from Canada emailed me to say he was watching it with interest. One question he wanted to ask, but didn’t, was ‘Under what circumstances would I consider re-accepting my award?’. I’m glad he didn’t ask it because it is not something I had considered – I have returned my award and I don’t wish to have it back; however, in the spirit of all learning together, it would be wrong of me to not consider what would need to change in order for me to consider that the issue had been taken seriously.
I don’t mean ‘I’m sorry you’re offended’ or some lip service to placate the masses. A sincere, heartfelt apology and a promise that everything possible will be done to ensure this sort of divisive behaviour is never encouraged again. If the ENSOC Administrators and the organisers of the RoUndie 500 had done this from the start, there would be no issues.
A sustainable change in behaviour
If you’ve taken any of my classes on Social Marketing you will know that changing attitudes or educating people is meaningless unless we see active and substantive voluntary changes to long-term behaviour. I don’t want a forced change. I don’t want behaviour that appears to have changed, but will be back in a few months. I want to see an active and purposeful change in behaviour now and have it sustained for the long-term. This may mean a culture shift in certain student bodies – let’s do this. I’m happy to help.
A culture of inclusiveness, not tolerance
I was quite annoyed at the statement from the UCSA that we need to have a tolerant campus. I don’t really feel women and minority groups feel they should be ‘tolerated’. What is it we do that annoys you so much that you feel you need to put up with us? Get rid of the word from all your documentation and work towards being inclusive rather than putting up with us.
An acceptance that Diversity Week won’t fix things
I have my issues with ‘Diversity Week’. Although it seems well meaning, the idea that we have a week to focus on diversity issues simply highlights how little Diversity issues are considered the other 51 weeks. If I had my way, we wouldn’t have a ‘diversity week’ – we’d have an inclusive society and it wouldn’t be paraded during a single week in March, but just part of everyday life – all year round. I get the feeling that Diversity Week will be like the British Museum – a display of post-colonial ‘kindness’ to show how wonderful the empire is at drawing the nations together. Don’t treat people of different ages, genders, abilities, races, sexual preferences etc as treasures to display so everyone can see how well you’ve done. It’s like teaching the single class on ethics in a student’s first year and saying ‘yup, that’ll do’ – ethics and morality should be ingrained into every aspect of every course if it’s really to be treated seriously. Same with inclusiveness.
A focus on academics, not side shows
This has consumed far too much of everyone’s time, especially when we are so close to exams. Students are here to study and let’s get back to doing that. Don’t let this consume you any more. UCSA President, Sarah Platt, and I had a very quick chat yesterday – she first returned the money I had given her saying it was non-negotiable. Secondly, she wanted to assure me that this is not the end of the discussion. More will be done. I am taking her word on this matter and so should everyone else.
On Monday there will be an International Forum with the Vice Chancellor and Sarah Platt. They’ve invited me along to the event. I won’t be there to make any grandiose speeches or call for further action. I’ll be there to listen and ensure that this is not swept under the carpet.
So, if you feel you have been ignored on the topic, you have a voice – I am no leader or shining idol – just a person doing what he felt was right – and, it seems, many agree with me. Get back to work.
Quick point of clarification that many (mainly commenting in the press) have misconstrued
I want to repeat at this point that I am not upset or offended by racist and sexist behaviour. I’m a big boy and I’m above that. What I’m upset and offended at is that a small group of students seek to encourage racist and sexist behaviour. The fact that the RoUndie 500 organisers specifically asked for ‘the more inappropriate the better’ costumes is the issue here. There will always be idiots out there, but we don’t need to encourage them. There is no systemic hatred at Canterbury any more than anywhere else, but the fact that it’s glorified by the ENSOC administration is, to me, disgusting and needs to be addressed.
The actions taken by the few do not represent ENSOC members as a whole, engineers as a student body, the University of Canterbury and certainly not New Zealand as a nation. Some have asked me what they should do if they disagree with these people’s stance – distance yourself – separate yourself as much as possible from them. Do not quit your engineering studies, don’t move to another institution (there’s no guarantees it’ll be any better, trust me!); just don’t be seen to be associating with people that uphold and glorify bigoted behaviour. From a simple marketing perspective (after all, that’s what I should be talking about), having your brand (ie, yourself) associated with a group that has not apologised for their actions and made no promises to change their behaviour is not going to help you in the long-run. Distance yourself.