Friday, October 17, 2008

Solution to the financial crisis: dumpster diving

It is not very often I pay attention to the student campus newspaper. If there is anything that I have learned from working in higher education for a few years now in different campuses is to keep my expectations low when it comes to a student campus newspaper. So, like a good librarian I scan it since this is often a source of information for what is happening on the campus. Otherwise, I tend to skip. However, this week's issue of our paper, the Patriot Talon, had an opinion piece that caught my eye. It mostly caught my eye because it seemed something between a tasteless joke and some degree of ignorance. The piece in question is the opinion piece by Fields-Thomas on "Have No Fear; financial meltdown solution is clear." Sure, it is clear the author is making light of the situation, and hey, I am the first to appreciate a joke or two over the financial mess certain people have put the country in. However, it's her "advice" which does not necessarily come across as very funny, and at least in one example, it is clearly insensitive. Under her checklist for "procuring a financially stable future," she writes:


At least stop eating inside the restaurants. Try your hand at dumpster diving in the back of the building. The homeless have been doing it for years, and trust me it will not kill you. Although, when you’re done you may believe you’re dying."

I don't know about the rest of my two readers, or anyone else for that matter, but I don't think making a joke at the expense of the homeless reflects well on the paper or the author of the opinion piece. In fact, the "joke" is reminiscent of the same insensitive attitude that Northwest Airlines displayed a couple of years ago when they were having layoffs. Northwest decided to send a little guide for money saving and economizing to their workers, a good number of which were getting laid off through no fault of their own. You can likely find the story in a few places if you Google it. Here is a link to it from the Washington Post written by Michelle Singletary. Now, Northwest may have been insensitive, but at least they were a bit more coy in their "advice:"

"Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash."

That's how Northwest phrased it. It's still dumpster diving, but at least it pretends to just be "you are pulling something out of the trash" as opposed to "dumpster diving" which is something "the homeless have been doing for years." We have enough of a problem in this country with homeless and their plight without one of our students, who probably should know better, making light of it. Maybe instead of using the homeless for a cheap joke, some education might be in order. For starters, I would suggest a visit to the National Coalition for the Homeless website. If you go under the link for publications, you will find various sources of accurate information, and if you go under FactSheets, you find a variety of brief resources that will provide a serious overview of the issue. I know Tyler is not the most diverse of towns, but I know there are some homeless in Smith County; I am sure folks working for organizations like Tyler Path or the East Texas Rescue Mission will be able to have a say on the matter. And, given that these days, many homeless are actually "couch homeless," one of those homeless persons could be a student right here at UT Tyler, and one would never know it.

The bottom line: advising people to quit eating out, or at least, eat out less often is probably a good idea. "Advising them" to go dumpster diving because the homeless have been doing it for years certainly is not funny, and it clearly is tasteless, showing a certain lack of compassion.

And I am not even going to touch what Fields-Thomas said about global warming. Not that funny either, but I am only doing one issue at a time. You folks can go look at it if you want.

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