“The university is determined to turn away anyone who wants education with their parking policy.”

He was writing in opposition to his university’s imposition of a parking fee for students. I’m not sure that he meant that the university was acting with the dogged intention of losing students, but of course that’s what he said.

And thanks to today’s almost universal choice of the plural pronoun “they” to refer to singular collective pronouns like “anyone,” as well as to refer to entities such as institutions, the “their” here might mean the university’s, or it might mean anyone’s who wants education.

The final problem is the placement of the prepositional phrase “with their parking policy.” Coming so late in the sentence, it seems to modify “education” rather than “is determined to turn away.” This impression is strengthened by what has become the stock phrase “You want fries with that?”—ironically enough, a joke answer to the question “What does a liberal-arts graduate say?”

And so we get a picture of someone who has a parking policy and wants education on the side, and a university determined not to admit anyone like that.

I teach there and am a victim of that parking policy myself.

The student’s observation? Too right!

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

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