Friday, October 05, 2007

Going to the Dogs

Readers of this blog know that I am fascinated by the genre of institutional e-mail and the way it violates some of the norms that are associated with more personalized electronic communication. For example, today we received this rhetorical gem in our campus in-boxes.


In order to ensure the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors, we would like to remind you of UCI's policy regarding animals on campus, summarized below.

1. In general, animals are prohibited in campus buildings, athletic fields, and parks. Exceptions are service animals, therapy animals, search and rescue animals, fish aquariums not used in research or teaching, and animals bred specifically for use in approved teaching, research, and clinical activities.

2. All animals on University grounds meeting the exceptions above must be restrained and under control of a person at all times.

4. All persons bringing animals onto University property will be responsible for the recovery and disposal of waste.

5. Any animal found on campus in violation of campus policy will be impounded and the owner will be held responsible for impound and/or license fees.

I immediately found myself with several questions about this missive. First -- and perhaps foremost -- where is number three on this list? Was one of the original rules deleted before this message was sent to the campus community? Or was this such an urgently needed update that it went out without proper numeric proofreading?

Second, why were they sending out something that was supposed to be just a list of the standard rules? Had there been a pet-related incident on campus that demanded some rhetorical correction, perhaps in response to a potential lawsuit? (Dog bite? Avian flu? Shark attack?) Or had someone who always hated animals on campus finally come into ascendancy in the campus administration? Had the Chancellor stepped in dog doo on the way to an important meeting? Because of the format, it's hard to tell why we are being "reminded."

With a proper letter or e-mail, the reader usually gets some context. But when office memos are simply translated into digital communication, it's hard to tell why you're being told what you're being told.

At least this one doesn't put children on the list of prohibited campus visitors. As a parent, I was annoyed at the old paper copies of widely ignored rules that equated faculty canines and felines with faculty offspring as potential sources of distraction and liability. We run a child-friendly office and wouldn't dream of saying that a teaching colleague couldn't stop by to drop off grades or pick up textbooks with an occupied stroller in tow.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the plus side, it does at least use "ensure" instead of "insure" for the context of securing something. Of course, in American English "insure" is correct when used willy nilly for insurance policies and generally securing anything at all, but according to Dr Blight's Dictionary of Annoying Americanisms it's one of the worst.

6:00 AM  

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