Intergroup overreaction

Queen’s Intergroup Dialogue Program has garnered national criticism since it was reported in the Queen’s Gazette Nov. 10.

Six live-in student facilitators will intervene in students’ conversations in residence when social issues are being discussed.

Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said the program aims to expose students to different perspectives and encourage them to use inoffensive language.

The Globe and Mail published an editorial Nov. 20 that compared the program to the gulag penal system under the Soviet Union.

Other media sources picked up on the policing theme and ran news articles and editorials condemning the initiative as “thought-policing,” “snooping” and “Orwellian.”

It’s absurd that newspapers picked up on a small initiative contained to Queen’s and gave it misleading prominence on, at times, their front pages.

The policing metaphor suggests the facilitators can penalize or correct what they identify as inappropriate behaviour when, in reality, they can only encourage discussion.

Few of the articles mention the recent racist and homophobic events that fuel the controversy around campus over the program.

Without writing about the initiative’s background, media have de-contextualized the program to appear more dangerous than it is.

By giving the facilitators a vague mandate and little power, the program renders their roles ineffective; it’s hard to justify their free room and board when there’s a residence crunch and budget cuts across the board.

Although Queen’s pitched the program as its latest investment in diversity, it’s troubling the Student Affairs office failed to make a connection between the climate on campus, triggered by recent discriminatory events, and how the new program will seek to address it.

Laker’s confusing interview with the Globe and Mail further complicates public understanding of the initiative.

The Student Affairs office owes students a clearer explanation—and soon, before the national media report further misconceptions.

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