Inclusion delusion embarrasses Langara
Vancouver Courier
February 22, 1998

Give Langara College president Linda Holmes credit—she has the courage to admit a mistake. (Would that the governors of our political institutions possessed the same trait.) In a letter to the Vancouver Sun Thursday, Holmes said that the decision to take down a Valentine’s Day decoration of a man and a woman was not the correct way to deal with complaints. Mind you, she needed a fair bit of prodding.

“Langara College has received many calls and letters from the public about an administration decision to replace a Valentine decoration,” she wrote. “In hindsight, leaving the silhouettes and adding others to make the display more inclusive would have been a better course of action.”

By rights, dean of student services Valerie Dunsterville could have dismissed the protest out of hand. But no. Feelings were hurt. Mommy had to make it all better. The “exclusionary,” “homophobic” decoration was quickly removed, leaving nothing where once there was something. This nothing, at least, was inclusive in its nullity.

Holmes deserves full marks for contrition, but her explanation is not so laudable. The fact that several students (nobody would give me the actual number) could be allowed to impose their moral sensibilities on all 6,800 students is absurd. I suppose for consistency’s sake Holmes will now formally declare “Straight Pride Day” because Langara wouldn’t want non-homosexuals to feel excluded.

Holmes unfortunately confuses the skills needed to run a liberal arts college with those required to run a kindergarten. Both are important, but hardly interchangeable. According to Holmes, the college adheres to a mission statement, the aim of which is to be inclusive. You won’t find this definition in the Oxford English Dictionary; it’s in the Handbook of Approved Buzzwords, Epithets, Nostrums, Slogans and Dogma. Roughly translated, “inclusive” means “innocuous”: no view or opinion, however innocently intended, must be allowed to offend any group or individual, even if no evidence of offence exists.

There’s not a blessed thing about the silhouette that could be construed as homophobic. (See Handbook under epithets for definition.) The fact that it was on a public building is irrelevant. Representations of men and women on Valentine’s Day are traditional, not political. They have been around for centuries and are part of our culture. If such representations offended Langara’s homosexual students, then they had to read offence into it. Is it Langara’s position that all expression, cheesy or otherwise, must be vetted by political sensitivity censors? Is expression to be circumscribed within such tight parameters that only blandness can be allowed? 

As president of Langara, Holmes should be concerned with fostering free and open expression so that graduates come away with the needed critical and intellectual faculties necessary to become good citizens. By making inclusion the college’s top priority, Holmes puts self-serving attitudes about equality above common sense. Colleges are designed to broaden minds, not to narrow them.

This debacle is too stupid for words. Once again B.C. is made a laughing stock, because a post-secondary institution allowed itself be manoeuvred into committing public relations suicide.

I suppose it’s only coincidence that the Valentine massacre occurred during multiculturalism’s holy week, but the irony is too delicious to ignore. Invented by Pierre Trudeau to break down English-Canadian identity so Quebec would feel less insecure (what a success!), multiculturalism has given us a Balkanized Canada, where minorities can intimidate the majority. (To the ethnic divisions we may legitimately add women and homosexuals who behave as cultural groups in their own right.)

Today, in the name of inclusion and tolerance, grievances are instantly ennobled, while critics summarily condemned with epithets like racist, sexist or homophobe. Under Section 7 (1) of the B.C. Human Rights Code a person can actually be charged with a human rights violation, even if it can be shown there was no intent to offend.

Unless colleges and universities get over this inclusion fetish we can expect more embarrassments.