Some might be offended by the idea of shaking hands. But others might be offended by a pre-emptive, patronizing refusal to shake their hands by people who attempted to guess what they want and slavishly obeyed the conclusions of a guess.
As with the case of the “Islamic” anti-littering campaign, an attempt to pander to a group in order to show “respect” may well wind up offending far more people. As James Thurber observed: “You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.”
Cambridge University has warned its dons not to shake hands with Muslims or students with disabilities for fear of offending them.
The top university has cautioned its academics not to proffer their hand automatically in case the gesture causes an upset. A directive has also gone to admissions tutors which explains that some people are “culturally sensitive” to the traditional British style of greeting.
The conflation of religious and disability issues seems ill-considered from the very start. The reasons for considering different approaches to initiating such a gesture as a handshake are very different.
“Suitable body language conveys welcome just as well,” Cambridge advises. But some dons are infuriated by the “advice”, with one telling the Daily Telegraph they are being treated as “social misfits”.
“It seems to be totally bonkers,” one said. “We know when to shake someone’s hand and when not to.”
The academic, who asked not to be named, added that it all seemed “a bit stupid and pointless” and would make interviews “even more awkward”. […]
A spokesperson for Cambridge University said the instructions only applied to Muslim women and people with certain disabilities.
“Dons should read the situation properly and bear in mind not all people will want to shake hands.”
The university added the guidance had been blown out of proportion and it was “practical advice” for interviews.
Universities and Colleges Union General Secretary Sally Hunt said academics were “intelligent enough” to know when to shake a person’s hand….