Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jonathan Kay on cystic fibrosis, and the disgrace of Carleton University's Students' Association

Posted: November 25, 2008, 5:22 PM by Jonathan Kay

Cystic fibrosis is a horrible disease. A congenital ailment, CF affects the mucus glands of the lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines, gradually interfering with digestive and respiratory functions until such time as the victim dies from organ failure — usually in his or her 30s.
All of which would seem to make cystic fibrosis research a worthy cause, right?

Wrong, you racist! This week, the Students' Association at Carleton University in Ottawa voted to drop cystic fibrosis as the beneficiary of its annual $1-million Shinearama fundraiser. The reason: CF "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" — and therefore is insufficiently "inclusive."

Even by the loopy standards of students governments, this has got to be a new low. Had the author of this resolution (update: we now know who moved this thing — see below) bothered so much as to look at Wikipedia, here is what he or she would have found: "Approximately 1 in 25 people of European descent … is a carrier of a cystic fibrosis mutation. Although CF is less common in these groups, approximately 1 in 46 Hispanics, 1 in 65 Africans and 1 in 90 Asians carry at least one abnormal CFTR gene. Cystic fibrosis is diagnosed in males and females equally."

That same author would also have found a photo of a young, pitiful-looking black girl staring back at him from behind a mask nebuliser. (Good thing for her the disease "only affect[s] white people," huh?)

But even if it were true that only white males got CF, what of it? We raise money for breast cancer even though it is primarily a female disease. We raise money for Tay-Sachs, even thought it strikes almost exclusively Jews. We raise money for AIDS, even though it disproportionately affects gays and blacks. That's because we raise money to save people — not tribes.

Members of the Students' Association at Carleton University have disgraced themselves and their school. In a fair world, their funding would be docked by the same amount they raised for CF last year — and the money directed toward the disease's victims, in all their "inclusive" need.


p.s. Find out what ordinary non-whacko students think about the matter here.

p.p.s. I just got hold of the actual text of the resolution, and its mover and seconder:

Motion to Drop Shinerama Fundraising Campaign from Orientation Week
Whereas Orientation week strives to be [as] inclusive as possible;
Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve the their diverse communities;
And Whereas Cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men
Be it resolved that: CUSA discontinue its support of this campaign
Be it Further Resolved that the CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.
Moved: Donnie Northrup           
Seconded: Meera Chander


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