In my post Microaggression Mania: McGill U. student leader apologizes for .gif of Obama kicking open door, I detailed the punishment and apology of McGill University student leader Brian Farnan for sending a .gif image of Obama kicking open a door.  The image was from a famous parody video on the Jay Leno show.

Farnan’s apology read, in part (emphasis added):

Oppression, as outlined in SSMU’s Equity Policy, means the exercise of power by a group of people over another group of people with specific consideration of cultural, historical and living legacies. The image in question was an extension of the cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of color—particularly young men—being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture and media. By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of SSMU’s communication to become the site of a microaggression; for this, I am deeply sorry.”

Obama kick open door gif

Since my post, the issue has gone viral, with widespread reporting in the U.S. and Canada.  All of the reporting has been mocking regarding the polically correct speech policies at McGill and on other campuses, where simple humor is an offense if it subjectively offends someone.  McGill seems to be an extreme because of its policies allowing for  the student government  (the Student Society of McGill University — SSMU) to process and prosecute such complaint and impose punishment.  It has the appearance of a Lord of the Flies style oppression of those with unpopular opinions.

SSMU has issued a press statement, embedded at the bottom of the post.  The press statement says very little of substance, but apparently is SSMU’s only on-record response to the outrage. The bland language is worthy of the worst bureaucratic tendencies of the politically correct apparatus, a microcosm of the banality of political correctness.

I spoke with Farnan today about the whole incident.  He confirmed some basic details:  A complaint was filed over the .gif, the SSMU Equity Commission ruled against him, that ruling was upheld by the SSMU Legislative Council, and the apology was issued as required by SSMU.  An attempt to reverse the decision was rebuffed by the Legislative Council.

I asked Farnan if he felt forced to issue the apology.  He said that he preferred the word “mandated” over forced.  He explained that at as an officer of SSMU, he is bound by its rulings, and that if he did not obey the rulings, there would be consequences: “As a public figure I have to adopt the decision of the council.”

I asked him if the apology was “heartfelt,” and he stated that he was uncomfortable with that term in the question but that he “meant the apology.” 

One aspect of his punishment that has not receieved much attention is that Farnan has to attend sensitivity training.  That sensitivity training is held once a month each month until he leaves SSMU office in May.  The training, one session of which he already has attended, is through the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office.  There is no set amount of time for each session, and that at least one of the sessions will involve working with a professor who specializes in email communications.

I asked him if he understood why people think this whole situation is crazy, and his response was “Yup.”  I hope he doesn’t get in more trouble for that answer, such is life on McGill’s campus.

McGill SSMU Executive Response to Apology Listserv