Rhetoric vs Reality

           Rhetoric often influences our perception of the way we view reality. Our views on what we see as a problem and how we choose to go about acting about it are often influenced by the use of rhetoric. Recently, when reading the University of Delaware’s thereview, I noticed an issue of rhetoric in the way it talked about our school in terms of sustainability. It struck me as important because since rhetoric has the power to influence our reality, it is critical that our views are being shaped off accurate information.  The Review featured an expose on the University of Delaware and recycling.  If you visit the University of Delaware’s sustainability website at http://www.udel.edu/sustainability/, you will notice the emphasis on how “ Sustainability is inherently rooted in the core principles of the University of Delaware”.  The web page goes on to explain their different sustainable and eco-friendly efforts, including a link purely about recycling efforts (http://www.udel.edu/sustainability/doing/doing_action_recycling.html).
            Here is where the issue of rhetoric vs. reality comes into play. According to the expose, Delaware promotes and claims to recycle but they don’t. For example, the dining services people and workers who cater university events were told to put the recycling bins out, but were also informed that it did not matter what garbage is put where because it is all going to the same place anyway.  On the webpage, UD uses rhetoric to frame their recycling efforts in a way that put them in a positive light, but they are deceitfully leaving out points, such that they don’t actually follow through with what they claim to be doing.  This resonates with one of the long term debates about whether or not rhetoric is deceitful. In this case, our school was using rhetoric to emphasize their sustainability efforts when in fact, they are lacking and we are being lied to. The website states “The University of Delaware contains an extensive recycling network, providing the campus community—faculty, students and staff—the ability to recycle a range of material. Recycling containers are available at residence, dining and administrative buildings.” However, the reality to this rhetoric is that the campus only provides us with recycling bins and the ability to THINK we are recycling, even when we aren’t. If the University really cared about sustainability there would be workers standing at the dining hall recycle bins to make sure kids are actually putting their waste into the right bin. And the garbage in the bins would matter because the recycling materials would not be going to the same place the rest of the trash is. The University of Delaware has schemed the public by using rhetoric in a way that distorts our view of reality. I believe it to be unacceptable that UD frames themselves as advocating a sustainable campus when it clearly is not important to them.  They are more concerned with their image then with their actions.
           Using rhetoric in a situation that does not yield truth can have many consequences.  For example, the University may no longer be able to be seen as a credible source and may have future problems when it comes to trying to create a positive image for themselves or influencing others to hold similar views they hold. This expose also emphasizes the important in the audience being knowledgeable and not just necessarily believing everything that they hear just because it is coming from someone of power. This expose has taught me that we must not be naïve and that it is important to research things for ourselves and have our own findings to back up what is being claimed so that this dissonance in what is perceived, and what is actually occurring can be avoided in the future. If we want sustainability to be seen as important, we must not only say it is, but act like it too.


Comments on: "Rhetoric vs Reality" (1)

  1. I actually did my concept in 60 project on something like this. In my project I emphasize the importance of considering the source, alternative motives, and their target audience. Delaware advertising sustainability and then not following through with it is definitely a misuse that Plato warned against. In general I’m skeptical of most things large organizations say when they brag until I see proof. I eat at Rodney every day, and I don’t think we even have recycling bins. Although, to play devil’s advocate, I’m not exactly sure what we would use them for. Everything we need is in the dining hall, and I don’t really see people bring in things that could be recycled. Nonetheless having bins available would be nice just in case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: