Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) cancelled a school fundraiser for cystic fibrosis (“Shinerama”) after the student council said that the disease only affects “white people, and primarily men” (via Stuff White People Do).
A couple of days later, students signed a petition to impeach CUSA president Brittany Smyth, and science faculty representative Donnie Northrup, who drafted the motion. The impeachment petition gained over 360 signatures in under two hours.
On Monday night, the motion to cancel Shinerama was reversed by CUSA at an emergency meeting, due to student pressure.
According to The Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, cystic fibrosis “affects both sexes with a similar frequency and is most common among Caucasians, including people of Middle Eastern and Indian descent.”
Although CUSA’s statement that cystic fibrosis affects only “white people, primarily men” is false, the sentiment that the motion discriminates against whites and males is also false. For example, many people assumed that CUSA “voted to not support a charity because they believed its victims were white males” (comment at CBC.ca with 227 recommendations), and that CUSA did not support research for cystic fibrosis. However, CUSA simply decided to discontinue its support of the campaign and resolved to “select a new broad reaching charity”.
That CUSA decided to discontinue its support of that particular campaign did not mean that CUSA was against research for cystic fibrosis and against helping white male victims. It could mean that CUSA wanted to switch to a charity that funded research for diseases including but not limited to cystic fibrosis. It could mean that CUSA wanted to fund research for diseases that affect both whites and non-whites, instead of just white people. To assume that CUSA was against research for cystic fibrosis and against white people is just a defensive reaction and an unreasonable interpretation of the motion.
Other than accusations of “blatant racism and sexism”, the argument of those who support keeping Shinerama is basically an Appeal to Tradition. If Carleton University was to start fresh and think of which charities are the most important, those who think cystic fibrosis is more important than other diseases would have to make an argument for it. For example, 1 in 20 Canadians over age 12 have heart disease, while only 1 in 3,600 Canadians are born with cystic fibrosis. If the purpose of charity is to help the most people, then there is little or no reason to focus on cystic fibrosis research exclusively.