I complained recently that the office of alumni affairs at IITM put a poster of four white people in an ad for a patent recognition award. I have since been told, by people whose opinions I have regard for, that I am reading too much into the matter, and that I’m only being argumentative. While the latter is something I would almost readily stipulate to, I do think that the matter is serious enough to merit discussion. The only rebuttal I heard that had any teeth (“Maybe you should be looking to get a patent, rather than at the picture in the poster”) only had teeth because it was ad-hominem!
Consider what the poster would’ve meant if the picture had been that of four people in turbans, or four people wearing ash or vermillion across their foreheads, or threads down their shoulders. A picture on the ad for and award can reasonably be assumed to be of the average recipient of the award. A poster for an award that has a picture of one sub-section of the population, in effect, says that most awardees should be expected to be from that sub-section. I do see something wrong with that suggestion, however statistically verifiable or otherwise it may be. So, when I see a poster for an award at IITM with four Caucasians on it, I find myself asking, ‘‘The Big Bang Theory’ is about four people from Caltech, and they have an Indian amongst them. Surely a poster at IITM can do better than none?’
In a related, but somewhat different matter, Q) Did you hear what happened to the coordinators who were dishonourably discharged from their posts?
A) Nothing. They’ve since, apparently, been reinstated. The narrative, it seems to me, is the following: people act stupidly; act of stupidity is recognized; the people are punished and vague overtures are made towards increased monitoring of the medium in question; the people are forgiven, and go scot-free (I see nothing wrong with this last one – People deserve second chances; maybe even third or fourth chances).
The root of the problem, of course, never figured in the narrative. Does anybody else see a recipe for the same damn mistakes to happen over and over again?