Letters to the editors

Students demand Mantle’s resignation

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

ASUS President Jacob Mantle displayed a terrible lack of judgment and sensitivity to both the impact of his words and the nature of his role as ASUS President when he posted the comment “I like your Taliban picture” to a friend’s photo showing two headscarf-wearing women. AMS President Talia Radcliffe should be commended for pressuring Mantle to delete the comments and make a public apology. However, as Mantle’s comments in the aftermath of this fiasco clearly demonstrate, they point to a deeper problem of misunderstanding and racial intolerance within ASUS’s top office.

Mantle’s comments that “I didn’t understand it goes beyond that. At first I was reluctant to give an apology” show that, despite apologizing, albeit under duress from the AMS President, he still fails to comprehend why some students were rightfully offended by his comments, and moreover, why, as the top executive officer of the largest faculty society on campus, it becomes so much more problematic that he made them.

Even if those comments were a joke, even if he never meant them seriously (and I do hope that is the case), the students of Queen’s University deserve more than the reluctant, half-hearted, empty apology that Mantle has given. I, for one, don’t think this problem can be solved by Mantle attending a workshop. The only responsible thing to do in this situation is for the students of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society, of which I was formerly a proud member, to demand Mantle’s resignation and for Mantle to step down.

Chris Horkins
ArtSci ’08, Law ’11

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

I am not sure where we as the Queen’s community are going to draw the line. Enough is enough. Jacob Mantle’s comment was bad enough in its own right, but Jacob Mantle is only one person, and his comment comes in a context of repeated assaults on the dignity and safety of Muslim students on campus in the past two months. His comment offers a glimpse into a sickening culture of intolerance that seems to thrive at this university. All Queen’s students and faculty, whether members of visible minorities or not, are affected and shamed by the moral corruption that is allowed to fester in and around this institution. It is time for us to move beyond token anti-racism campaigns and half-assed apologies and make clear that such behaviour will absolutely not be tolerated in any form by demanding the resignation of Jacob Mantle from his position as ASUS President.

Kamal Reilly
ArtSci ’08

Journal as bad as Mantle

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

Why is it the story of a racist incident ends up being about a white guy? In the article, the Journal proves itself to be no better than ASUS President Jacob Mantle. Rather than focus on those who have been harmed by his ignorance, the Journal focuses on the white student leader’s apology—an apology that was never even directed toward Muslim students on campus as they only learned of it via your website. Moreover, the Journal uses an inaccurate image to depict one of the Muslim students consulted. In the process, you continue to erase the real victims of oppression.

Had you seriously considered the experiences of Muslim people on our campus, and the other brown people who get lumped together by bigots, you might go beyond seeing them as objects and consider the fear they might face at this time. With recent hate crimes, such as the defacing of Islamic posters with the words ‘all Muslims should die!’ backed up by two attempts at breaking into Muslim student space, our colleagues have reason to be fearful when their own student leaders display such ignorance and treat them literally as a joke.

The photo used by the Journal to depict Safiah Chowdhury is actually of another Muslim student activist. I certainly do not want to reveal the true identity in the current climate of hate on our campus. The point, however, is that the Journal takes part in these racist processes even while they try to report on them.

There is no excuse for students to remain as ignorant as we have proven to be. October is Islamic History month in Kingston and the Islamic Society of Kingston has put on numerous educational forums. I encourage students to endorse QUMSA’s campaign for a hate-free campus (www.qumsa.net) and back it up with some efforts to learn about Islam. If you did we might be able to get over the false assumption that women have no agency in wearing a head scarf and that their identities disappear as they adopt it.

Toby Moorsom,
PhD ’09

Learn to take a joke

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

If I recall correctly, the key goal in our society is to encourage diversity—but how are we to do this when certain people insist on building politically correct fortresses of acceptance scaled only by hiding the fact that we as a species are different?

Diversity is about accepting our differences, not pretending they don’t exist. A large part of learning to accept our differences involves learning to laugh at them—or colloquially, learning to take a joke.

As comedians often say, it is physically impossible to tell a joke without offending someone, somewhere. Now of course there are always going to be remarks that can be considered off-colour and tasteless, and I am in no way encouraging these, but classifying every single harmless comment, every single one-liner and every single horrible pun which pokes fun at our origins or cultural differences as racism only serves to cheapen and trivialize the very real concept of racism.

Actual racism exists and it is something we need to rid ourselves of completely. But the second something like a harmless comment made on Facebook between two friends, offending no one in particular except a phantom minority, makes a headline in a newspaper as racism, well, racism has won. We’re all different, and there is nothing wrong with that.

If the most racist thing you have ever experienced in your lifetime is that someone you don’t know made a joke to someone else you don’t know about a regional style of clothing, then you have lived a very fortunate, sheltered life. There are a thousand other real issues of racism that should be voiced first and foremost, and if this fiasco tops the list you may just need to check your priorities. If we spend all our time bickering and making headlines about the most absolute trivialities, the real problems will never be resolved.

Adam Mitter
ArtSci ’09

Look beyond Mantle; fight Islamophobia

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

Aside from the fact that the comment was made by a high-profile student politician, there is little that is remarkable about Jacob Mantle’s inappropriate comment. Statements which show little respect for differences in race, creed or culture are an everyday occurrence at Queen’s and in our society at large.

As the ASUS Executive for 2007-2008, we hired Jacob Mantle as our Internal Affairs commissioner. While we are disheartened by Mr. Mantle’s comments, we recognize that he made a mistake and we still believe that he is a good-natured person. At the same time, we must demand more from our student politicians. Mere apologies will not heal the wounds that have been created by acts of hate on our campus. We hope that Mr. Mantle has learned from his error, but we also hope that the Queen’s community at large finally understands the absolute importance of promoting and respecting diversity on this campus.

On a larger scale, we must not be complacent about fighting Islamophobia. The majority of Islamophobic acts occur in the private sphere in the form of an ignorant or uninformed comment or joke. These comments cause profound damage which is often not seen by the majority. A seemingly innocent comment can create an environment of fear or disdain.

We hope Mr. Mantle and the Queen’s community at large learn an important lesson from these events. That is not only must we think before we act, but we must also actively circumvent a culture on campus in which minority groups feel disenfranchised or inferior. While many feel that Queen’s is a school where there is tolerance and acceptance for diversity, the incidents we have seen over the past few years show that our respect for differences may not be genuine. Moving forward, we must work towards an environment that is genuinely inclusive of diversity on our campus.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud & Hakim Kassam, both ArtSci ’09
ASUS President and Vice President, 07/08

Facebook responsibly

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

When I read the Journal’s article regarding ASUS President Jacob Mantle and a comment on a Facebook photo I was not surprised in the least; if anything I am shocked it took this long. While I am a proponent of Facebook, I also know the dangers that this site poses to students while at Queen’s and beyond. To be blunt: this stuff sticks. Just look at this past federal election where multiple candidates were forced to step down because of comments made on a blog and online. While Mr. Mantle might have to make a hard decision now on whether to resign over his inexcusable comments, the true ramifications of his actions will follow him long after Queen’s.

Writing on Facebook is like writing on the wall of the Lower JDUC—if you don’t want someone to see the writing there, don’t put it online because it will come back at the worst of times.

Max Rubin
ArtSci ’08

Fencing article inaccurate

Dear Editors,

Re: “Fencing can’t win at their own game” (Journal, Oct. 24, 2008)

The article in question fails to report the strong performance of many of the Queen’s Fencers by missing the results of two of the three events of the weekend. The article states that Kristina Han was the highest ranking Queen’s female fencer at the tournament. While Han placed the highest in Women’s Sabre, Laura Bartha was the team’s highest ranking female placing 6th in Women’s Epee. Also overlooked were the performances of Christian Petrozza (fifth in Men’s Foil) and Scott Bowman (sixth in Men’s Sabre). On the University circuit, Brock and Ryerson did not medal, Western and Carleton ended with one silver each, Trent had one gold, RMC had four bronze and the University of Toronto won two bronze and three gold medals. The remaining medalists were competitors not affiliated with the OUA.

The Queen’s Invitational Fencing Tournament invites fencers from all over Ontario of different ages and experience levels to compete with both new fencers and fencers with past national status. This year it also had the pleasure of drawing an international Fencing referee who judged at the Athens’ Olympics. This weekend is the RMC Team Tournament which draws fencers from all over Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. We invite the Journal staff to come and support Queen’s Fencing.

Stacey McDonald, ArtSci ’08
On behalf of the Team and Weapon Captains, Queen’s Fencing

Supporting STRIVE

Dear Editors,

Re: “Striving for a bottle-free campus” (Journal, Oct. 14, 2008)

On my first visit back to Queen’s in 21 years, I picked up a copy of the Journal and found the news interesting. I am writing to encourage STRIVE and chair Emily Merrick.

In Canada we are fortunate to have plentiful clean water. We should protect it, avoiding the wasteful habit of bottled water. For the price of one or two cases of bottled water we can buy permanent water bottles that we can fill ourselves at the tap. The petroleum industry does not need our support. The failure to recycle is a testament to our affluence and our conditioning for planned obsolescence. Get over throwing things away because someone told you it is a single use item. Don’t even buy such things. If it comes down to considering a student’s budget, what is paid for a litre of water is far more expensive than what we complain about paying for a litre of gasoline.

I encourage the students and administration of Queens to take the lead in their community, in Kingston and on the broader university scene. Each student can make a difference when they go home by being conscious of this issue. The United Church of Canada decided over two years ago that bottled water should not be used at any church gathering, conference or meeting. This is one more way to work at saving the planet and taking care of the gift of life within in.

Go STRIVE!

Dan Yourkevich
M.Div ’77

Journal uninformed on organ donation

Dear editors,

Re: “Ban ignores heart of issue” (Journal, Oct. 21, 2008)

I get frustrated every time I see lay people with no medical or statistical understanding of the issue criticize Health Canada for their stance on gay organ donors. Before we review the facts behind their decision, I would like it noted that I am in favour of all GBLT rights.

Fact number 1: while it is true that the incidence rate (the number of new cases contracted per year) is on the rise among heterosexual women, it is still an order of magnitude below that among gay men. Furthermore, the relative number of infected persons is also an order of magnitude higher among gay men. This means that gay men are 10 times more likely both to already have the disease and to contract the disease if they don't already have it than are heterosexual women. In fact, in the most recent studies I have been able to find, male-male homosexual intercourse resulted in more new cases of HIV than did all other high-risk activities combined. Your statement that incidence rates among heterosexual women are on the rise is both purposely misleading and irrelevant because they are still far below those among gay men.

Fact number 2: Unlike blood, organs do not last long enough to run an HIV/AIDS screening test on them. Many only last a few hours at most. This makes it all the more important to screen out high-risk groups because it is impossible to test their organs before they are used. Your wish that Health Canada would just test all organs it receives is an impossible fantasy and betrays the ignorance behind your opinion on this issue.

Fact number 3: Health Canada is not engaging in discrimination against gays. The high-risk groups have been determined statistically and gays are in fact at higher risk than some of the other banned donor groups, such as ex-prisoners. Furthermore, they do not ask your sexual orientation, but rather whether anyone, gay or straight, has had homosexual intercourse with another man, and whether women have had intercourse with a man they know to have done the same. Whether or not Health Canada should allow all high-risk groups to donate due to organ shortages is another topic, but statistically they cannot raise the bar to allow gay men without allowing at least one other high-risk group to donate as well, and I do not see anyone arguing that ex-prisoners should be allowed to donate.

Next time you write an editorial, I hope that you have the foresight to research all the relevant information rather than relying purely on your gut feeling of right and wrong.

James Hayward
ArtSci '10

Misplaced Priorities

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

I find it odd that the Journal is willing to take the time to write an editorial about media coverage on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe but cannot take the time to write a full article about the QUMSA prayer space being broken into again. That space being broken into for the second time is a very serious issue – members of our community use it regularly and now their safety has been compromised. Adding a few lines about it to your article on the ASUS President’s slur that was posted over Facebook is not responsible reporting. I do realize it is important to take time to shed light on Mantle’s remarks and on the fact that Palin should be scrutinized for her approach to politics rather than her wardrobe. However, giving these topics more page space than the issue of QUMSA having to deal with multiple break-ins is ridiculous. Maybe if the Journal tried a little harder to focus on the serious and potentially dangerous issues that are facing some of our Islamic students (instead of merely glazing over them), others might be little a more hesitant to make offensive remarks regarding their religion.

Ashley Singh
ArtSci ’09

Journal reporting ‘irresponsible’

Dear Editors,

Re: “Racism on the web” (Journal, Oct. 28, 2008)

After learning the truth behind the information presented in the article I was shocked that the Journal could be so irresponsible in their reporting.

The Journal misquoted the external liaison of QUMSA. She did not make any indication that Mantle's comments occurred at the same time of the break in. She was interviewed specifically about the break in, and therefore her comments should never have been used in regards to a different incident.

By combining two separate incidents into one article the Journal shows a lack of respect and understanding about the seriousness of such events. To make the majority of the article about Mantle¬¬¬¬'s apology, while making the information about the violent attempted break-in only a small item at the end of the article is missing the point entirely. These acts were separate, unrelated (in a sense) incidents that should both be given their fair share of coverage. Especially in light of the high number of racist acts that have occurred against Muslim students on campus this semester.

The Journal homogenized Muslim people by publishing a photo of another woman in a hijab who had nothing to do with the article. Although this could have been an honest mistake, the photo should never have been there in the first place.

The Journal must realize the power that it has to shape student opinions at Queen's. To make such serious errors in reporting shows a lack of respect for the seriousness of Islamaphobia on campus. As well, it puts the students involved in unnecessary danger.

I feel that it is only right (both on a level of professionalism as well as responsibility) for the Journal to issue a serious apology for the journalistic errors that occurred in the article.

I would also ask for the Journal to shut down the Comments on the Journal's website for the article as they are now only fueling more hate and misunderstandings, rather than respectful dialogue which is needed in this case

Kim McCrory
ArtSci'10

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