Are we all familiar with the idea of “brand assassination”? It’s when a corporation or a business manages to shoot itself in the foot, so to speak, by alienating its key demographics and target audience, which usually spells the death of the organization at a rapid pace, sometimes they self destruct in a matter of months. Today, I’d like to expand on that a little and make it more specific: Advocacy Assassination, it’s when an organization that’s less focused on moneymaking and more on political and social advocacy does something similar, alienating people who would otherwise be inclined to support their cause through their own tactics. A student group at UVic has managed to do just that through the student paper in a letter-writing campaign responding to a story about a rally for accessible housing.
The rally was addressing an important issue: Recently, UVic switched the system by which housing priority is given for those staying in the dormitories on campus. It used to be a straightforward priority given to students with disabilities/first years system. This year, they decided to try something new by installing a lottery system, which seriously disenfranchised students with disabilities, who now had less of a chance of getting housing and less of a chance of getting accessible housing even on campus. The rally was, as far as I can tell, a success, and it even got the MP of Saanich and Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, to come speak.
The president of the organization I am referring to wrote a letter in response to the student paper covering the rally, which isn’t available on the website, so I’ll reproduce it here for my readers:
“Living off campus might be a bigger barrier if there were no accessible transit, but I know of no students with disabilities who have been unable to attend UVic because they didn’t get into residence and had to travel to campus.
It sounds as if the rally organizer has not had much experience living with a disability. I sympathize. It is a shock for an able-bodied person to acquire a disability, even temporarily. However, for those of us with longer experience, disability is not the catastrophe it appears to be in this article. Of course we can live independently and manage to get ourselves to school or work. As a student with a mobility impairment (I have cerebral palsy and rely on a scooter), I believe the rally focused on a non-issue.
But if a disabled student actually has such a dilemma, please contact (Not giving them free promotion) We may be able to help.
(Not adding the name.)”
Did you get that? Basically, it boils down to “Since I’m not impacted by it and don’t know anyone who is, I hereby declare it trivial and worthless. But I will still take this chance to shamelessly promote my own organization which had nothing to do with this rally!” The amount of snark permeating in the letter directed towards the one who organized the rally (who was temporarily disabled by a centipede bite in the Philippines) is very noticeable and rather unpleasant. There’s another letter by someone who is a board member of this organization, again just promoting them.
I was indifferent to them before reading these letters, but now, after seeing the way they react so nastily to people “encroaching” on their territory by participating in disability activism, I am not going to give them the time of day to offer my support or advocacy. There’s another group on campus I have been working with which is much less focused on attacking efforts to engage in activism and more on improving student quality of life at UVic, and I know who I want to support.