Letters to the editors

Mantle should resign

Dear Editors,

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

Alternative Jewish Voices is a newly formed group of like-minded members in the Kingston and Queen’s communities. We stand in solidarity with all those opposing racism and discrimination in all its forms. As a group which provides an alternative space for Jews on this campus, we recognize the need for dialogue and discussion on some of the contributing factors to rising Islamophobia. Providing a space for challenging and unlearning policies of oppression and violence is critical to dismantling prevailing stereotypes which have been foisted on both Jews and Muslims.

At this time, we urge the Queen’s and broader Kingston community to take a close look at our role in perpetuating discrimination. In the wake of an escalating number of racist attacks against faculty and classmates which have included break-ins, vandalism, verbal assaults and physical threats toward racialized students (of all ethnic and religious backgrounds), the members of Alternative Jewish Voices were horrified to learn that one of the leaders of Queen’s largest and most prominent student organizations had himself posted an expression of hatred and bigotry on the web. There is no place at Queen’s and no room at ASUS for a person like Jacob Mantle who feels free to make such blatantly bigoted comments at any time, but particularly when our Muslim classmates, faculty and teachers are under daily attack. We call upon all members of the Queen’s community to seriously consider endorsing QCRED’s call to action and in doing so seriously reflect upon who is representing our collective voice. Jacob Mantle as well as our student organizations and media, must be held accountable for irresponsible practices and racially or religiously derogatory comments which reflect on the community as a whole and which subject our classmates to a climate of denigration and violence.

For more information on AJV please contact 5eh16@queensu.ca

Ethan Holtzer and Maya Thau-Eleff
both ArtSci ’10

Don’t overreact to Mantle’s comment

Dear Editors,

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

You have got to be kidding me.

I logged on to read the Journal this week, as I do most weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at my alma mater. Having been gone for five years, I still like to check back in to see what’s happening. So imagine my surprise when it appeared a race riot had occurred on campus!

What had actually happened, of course, was that a person had made an infantile, derogatory remark on a friend’s wall on Facebook. To read the letters on Friday, however, you would assume that students were being forced into racially segregated ghettos while Molotov cocktails were being pitched through windows.

I have no doubt that some students were offended by the statements made by Mr. Mantle; I also have no doubt that his simple apology was not enough. As a public figure, he should find a certain amount of intestinal fortitude and do the right thing, which is to resign for his stupid remarks. But for certain segments to scream that this was a “hateful” remark, and moan about how this “offers a glimpse into a sickening culture of intolerance that seems to thrive at this university” is ridiculous and childish.

This incident does no such thing. It shows the ignorance of a pinhead. Deal with issues as they arise, and try to avoid stereotyping the entire University, lest you become what you preach against.

Mat Siscoe
Sci ’03

Where credit is due

Dear Editors,

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

The past two weeks have produced much public criticism of groups and individuals but hardly any praise, though much is due. Thus I would like to extend congratulations to the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association for their calm, rational statements and superb leadership; to Speaker of AMS Assembly Mike Koichopolos for an outstanding job of keeping order at last week’s meeting; to ASUS President Jacob Mantle for one of the most heartfelt apologies this campus has ever seen; and lastly to those student leaders who have approached a difficult situation with calm, reason and respect.

John Manning
ArtSci ’09 AMS Vice-President (Operations) 07-08

Journal coverage ‘irresponsible’

Dear Editors,

Re: “AMS asks Jacob Mantle to resign” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

After being grossly misrepresented in the previous article, “Racism on the web,” I clarified my position to the Journal editors and also at the AMS Assembly on Thursday. I therefore find it extremely disconcerting that after misrepresenting me once already, the Journal managed to do it again. This time around, the Journal listed me first as one of the speakers in the “heated discussion” where students were “debating whether or not Mantle should resign.” This is simply untrue. I spoke only about the the Journal’s aforementioned misrepresentation and again made absolutely no allusion to Mantle whatsoever. In fact, the Journal’s very own editor-in-chief spoke more than I did.

It is important that the Queen’s community know that the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA) has not taken an official stance regarding Jacob Mantle and his position as ASUS president other than the fact that we believe it is an AMS issue. We have intentionally chosen to do this so as not to polarize this campus. This, again, is not a QUMSA-specific issue. It is for this reason that the QUMSA executive abstained from speaking at Assembly as much as possible. I, however, spoke twice. Both times I simply reiterated the fact that the interview I gave to the Journal pertained only to the break in. Any connection made between my comments and the issues surrounding Jacob Mantle is an utter and complete fabrication.

QUMSA is currently burdened by deepening concerns over the safety of its members. Never in our 40-year history have we had to close our prayer space to the public. Yet, in two months alone, we have done so twice already. This is our primary concern, whether or not the Journal chooses to properly report on it.

There are ramifications to this sort of fallacious, irresponsible journalism and I implore the Journal to exercise more caution in the manner in which they report.

Safiah Chowdhury
ArtSci ’11

External Liaison, Queen’s University Muslim Students Association

Resignation would be a mistake

Dear Editors,

Re: “AMS asks Jacob Mantle to resign” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

Most students know little about ASUS beyond Orientation Week and thus don’t always appreciate how much time and energy ASUS Council invests in their faculty society. These students basically work full-time jobs, on top of attending class, for woefully insufficient honoraria. They exemplify the Queen’s spirit and contribute so much to this school that goes unnoticed (and unappreciated) by the masses.

Jacob is one of these students. Regardless of how strongly you feel about his statement (for which he has already apologized repeatedly and has been the centre of excessive vilification), it would be a big mistake to have him resign, if even just for logistical reasons. On top of the investment of half a year of training and planning that would be lost (which student fees subsidized), there would be no one else to adequately take over his duties because the rest of ASUS Council already has such bloated portfolios. Further, if my memory of ASUS Constitution serves me well, in order to impeach the president, one would also have to eject the vice-president. This is something you do not want to do! You essentially would be left with a castrated ASUS Council that lacks leadership for the current year and institutionalized memory to train subsequent years.

Put aside the pitchforks and torches, however viscerally satisfying they may be to wield, and consider what is best for student interests in the long term.

Dhiraj Dhanjani
ArtSci ’08
ASUS Assembly Member 2005-2008

Radcliffe hypocritcal

Dear Editors,

Re: “AMS asks Jacob Mantle to resign” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

I find it a tad surprising that Talia Radcliffe deems herself fit to call for the resignation of Jacob Mantle, let alone publicly lecture him on the tenets of student leadership. It was only a few months ago that Ms. Radcliffe refused to apologize on behalf of the AMS for the rather large error of its Controller, Scott Bell, who left a box filled with employees’ private financial information out in a JDUC hallway for weeks.

I don’t know if it was pride or indifference but I continue to find her reaction irresponsible and unfitting of a supposed student leader. It’s also interesting to note that many individuals have tossed around those same possibilities in describing Mr. Mantle’s slow reaction to the exposure of his infamous Facebook post.

From where, then, does Ms. Radcliffe summon the nerve to spout lessons to others on how best to lead and represent the Queen’s student body? Ms. Radcliffe still owes us an apology for the original incident as well as her callous response or, at the very least, to keep quiet on matters relating to student leadership.

Dan Whalen
ArtSci ’07
Head Manager, Queen’s Student Constables 07-08

Green supplement won’t make a difference

Dear Editors, Re: “Guide to Green” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

Let’s start with a simple fact: we have eight and half years to reduce our carbon emissions by something like 50 to 60 per cent to have a chance of preventing catastrophic global climate change. We aren’t going to do it by turning off a light bulb, becoming a vegetarian, driving less or growing a plant (read the article; this was actually a suggestion). In fact, we aren’t going to do anything if we follow a single piece of advice that was promoted by the Journal’s Green Supplement, or for that matter a single piece of advice that you have ever heard from the publicized environmental movement.

The fallacy that if we all do our “part” to help the environment we can save the world needs to be dispelled because it is doing far more harm than good. You can try out every piece of advice in the Green Supplement and then come to the happy realization that your next-door neighbour driving a big SUV is going to counter anything that you might think you’re achieving, and that the two coal plants that China builds every week are going to squash your efforts and literally the efforts of every person in the world who tries out this useless strategy. The magnitude and scope of this problem is so big and we as individuals are so small that making a difference is impossible as long as you think on the individual level. We need to empower ourselves by moving away from the useless advice that we are fed on a continuous basis. Reducing your footprint is not enough; it isn’t even a start. And environmentalists who tell you that these reductions are enough are cheating you of a real opportunity to make a difference.

Daniel Myran ArtSci ’10

Fort Henry responds to editorial

Dear Editors,

Re: “Fort of Knowledge” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

I wanted to address a couple of issues brought up in Adèle Barclay’s editorial about the Fort Fright event at Fort Henry this Halloween. I would first of all like to clarify that our tours are run in partnership with Fort Henry but are separate from the Fort Fright event itself. The Fort Fright event is a popular and fun haunted attraction that has many economic benefits for Kingston. The fact that the writer sees this as somehow a bad thing only tells me she is not aware of the importance of tourism to the Kingston economy and the many people whose livelihoods depend on this often challenging industry.

Most of all, I would like to address the statements “Kingston seems to derive so much of its identity from a fort that didn’t really do much” and “we rely on former glory as Canada’s first capital far too much and only focus on aspects that are convenient and marketable.” I think that anyone with even a hint of appreciation of history would find these statements ill-informed and offensive. I believe that the thousands of people who served, worked and sometimes even died at Fort Henry over the years would disagree that it was a place of little consequence. The fact that it was not used in battle does not undermine its importance as a historic site, an importance that was recently acknowledged internationally in its inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It makes no sense to me that the writer is at the same time trivializing the contribution of our history while claiming that not enough is done to promote it.

I was pleased to see that the Journal also included an article in your Features section of the same edition that provided a well-written and thoughtful commentary on this event.

Glen Shackleton
ArtSci ’96
Founder and Director, Haunted Walks Inc.

Referendum results are telling

Dear Editors,

Re: “AMS fall referendum results” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

I was disappointed to read that the only three fee questions that did not pass the AMS Fall Referendum belonged to two media organizations—Diatribe and The Empress—and one arts organization—Union Gallery.

Is it fair to claim that students don’t support media and arts? Many would disagree with this blanket statement, but the results of the referendum, and of referenda past, show a clear trend. What does it say about the state of discourse at Queen’s (which has had its fair share of controversy), if the majority of us no longer place value in these alternative means of expression?

To the dedicated individuals in charge of these organizations, I wish you the best of luck and you have all my respect for the challenges you have undertaken. Despite this setback, I hope you are able to continue making your integral contribution to Queen’s culture for years to come, even if we don’t deserve it.

Jess Lindal
ArtSci ’08

Fort Henry editorial “ignorant”

Dear Editors,

Re: “Fort of Knowledge” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

In the Oct. 31 issue of the Journal, Adèle Barclay expressed her distaste for “Fort Fright” at Fort Henry, stressing how tacky animatronics, blood-spattered skeletons and the commercialization of this event distract from serious reflection on our history.

Fine.

What I – and I’m sure many other historians, residents of Kingston and former Fort Henry Guard – take issue with are Barclay’s dismissive statement that the Fort has only a “meagre history.”

Perhaps Barclay wasn’t aware, but Fort Henry, the Kingston fortifications and the Rideau Canal were all recently designated as a UNESCO world heritage site – the only one in Ontario. It earned this designation for its role as part of the defensive system for British North America that helped create the culturally and politically distinct entity in North America we know as Canada.

If that isn’t enough history for Barclay, perhaps the Fort’s role in helping to suppress the 1837 Rebellion; the fact it served as a prisoner-of-war camp for Germans during the Second World War; or the pioneering efforts by Ronald L. Way – restorer Fort Henry, Upper Canada Village and the Fortress of Louisburg – to create “living history” in Canada will make her re-think her claims that Fort Henry “didn’t really do much.”

As a historian, I agree with Barclay that “it’s important to look back, by not just glossing over but acknowledging the more uncomfortable, shady sides of history,” but perhaps she should first better acquaint herself with our mainstream history before she attempts to complicate and revise it with ignorant claims that Fort Henry does not possess a rich or important history.

Mark Condos,
MA ‘09
Member, Fort Henry Guard

Political correctness gone awry

Dear Editors,

Re: “AMS asks Jacob Mantle to resign” (Journal, Oct. 31, 2008)

Given the significance of the most recent incident of political correctness gone awry, students may have to start thinking about their freedom of expression and privacy. Last week the AMS was tiptoeing very near the students’ democratic rights in the name of being polite to a select group who were offended by Jacob Mantle’s private comments. Lacking any official poll, my socialised opinion is that the majority of the undergrad body in the constituency of the alleged perpetrator of politically incorrect comments understand that what Mantle posted on Facebook is not a reflection of his values; neither are they of the values of ASUS. That same majority of students voted to elect Mantle, and by calling for his resignation and impeachment, is a direct contradiction of the democratic values of the election process at Queen’s University.

This is certainly a case of political correctness taken to a point where it is in conflict with our fundamental rights. For the AMS to have been in the right, they should have had a referendum to even consider calling for the resignation of the head of a non-AMS body. I now wonder whether my vote on campus carries any weight, and more importantly what would happen to the expression and creativity of students if we learned we had to live in fear of grave consequences to accidentally offending someone? I certainly hope none of my Canadian hockey player comments land me in a “bag of hurt.” Jacob Mantle has truly become a scapegoat for underlying issues on campus that will persist unless they are faced directly. In addition, those who still support Mantle are being silenced in fear of being prosecuted unfairly. Mantle has apologized to anyone he may have offended by his comments and has certainly demonstrated beyond any kind of doubt, a lack of intent to harm anyone, especially for their religious or ethnic values. Mantle also has done a fine job representing the undergrads in the faultily of arts & science and as I voted, I expect for him to complete his mandate.

Alexander Stecky-Efantis
ArtSci ‘11


Less aggression, more forgiveness

Dear Editors,

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

Due to the concentration of bright minds which can be found at Queen's, one would like to imagine the community to be a very inspiring and accepting place. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. This became very apparent on Halloween. While walking with my housemate (who was dressed as a construction worker), we were interrupted by several parties and passing individuals with aggressive comments such as "Fuck you construction worker!" What environment has fostered such an unnecessarily aggressive attitude towards our fellow students?

I believe this attitude is being displayed once again in the sensationalized attack on Jacob Mantle. The actions of Jacob Mantle regarding his comments on a Facebook photograph were no doubt irresponsible, and indeed insensitive. However, to interpret the comment as an attack on a minority is unreasonable and has a similar flavour to drunken men taking offence after being bumped at a bar. Jacob Matle has acknowledges his actions were wrong and taken action to prove he is genuinely sorry. What else is required before we can forgive him?

As a community, Queen's has a long way to go before we will be a truly welcoming and positive environment. While our student government should be at the forefront of this change, it is important that the anonymous members of the community understand that they also play a role. Every individual needs to re-assess their interactions with their colleagues and acknowledge that we are all important elements in fostering change. We should use the events surrounding Jacob Mantle as an opportunity to educate, forgive and introduce reasonable and respectful human elements back into our school community.

Ben Eagan
ArtSci ’10

Journal covering for wrongdoers

Dear Editors,

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

You've seen the QCRED e-mail, and I really could not say it much better than they have. I will say that it's ridiculous that students have to go to <> this year for any type of critical journalism against the AMS. Just as in the case of the abandoned boxes of student tax information, the <> continues to cover the asses of people who have done (or said, now) radically stupid things. This just shows the conflict of interest when a media is controlled by the bureaucracy in charge. Also, the frivolity it takes to put the wrong person's quote with another's picture is shameful for a paper that wants credibility, no matter what race that person is.

Rebecca Londner ArtSci ’10

Mantle should resign

Dear Editors,

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

I hope Jacob realizes exactly why there has been such a vocal student outcry for just a few words on Facebook. It is not because his right to free speech, or his right to discuss some of the practices of the Islamic world, is being questioned. Rather, it is because he considers the hijab, a part of female attire that many millions of Muslim women wear willingly, an appropriate subject of a joke. However, this isn't just about political correctness. The phrase "Taliban attire" also implies that he finds the subjugation of women by the Taliban regime, a grievous human rights issue, a suitable topic for frivolous remarks. This is absolutely pathetic coming from anybody, not just the ASUS president. Nobody makes fun of the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide for the same reason. The fact that so many Queen's students such as myself are angered and calling for his resignation shows that we do not want to be represented by people like Jacob. When the respect for a leader diminishes, their capacity to lead disappears along with it.

Aditya Natarajan
ArtSci ’09

Resignation would do little

Dear Editors,

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

Call me old fashioned, but I’ve always thought that a university is a place where students are supposed to engage with one another in a spirit of learning.

That’s why I’m sorely disappointed by the lesson that’s being taught to Jacob Mantle. In the Oct. 31 letter by Mr. Abdelmahmoud and Mr. Kassam, they wrote that "mere apologies will not heal the wounds" left by an innocent-but-boneheaded Facebook comment in this case. Fine; but will Mantle's resignation do any better? Let's say the people calling for his resignation extract their pound of flesh and he resigns. What then? What lesson has been taught? From my perspective, the lesson is this: do not write, speak or even think an ignorant thought on this campus or you will be pay dearly. You will be made a pariah, you will be ostracized from our community, and you will lose whatever reputation you have.

Way to promote tolerance and learning.

If Mantles resigns, fewer Queen's students may say ignorant things in semi-public spaces (with due respect to Mr. Rubin, it's not like writing something on the wall of the lower JDUC, it's like writing something on the exterior wall of your friend's house, and depending on your privacy settings that house might be in a gated community), but not for the right reasons. It's tolerance by way of fear, rather than true tolerance built on an understanding of different people and cultures. This situation has given student leaders a chance to either promote learning, or promote a petty and vindictive sense of justice. In his capacity as ASUS president, Mantle could become the greatest friend that QUMSA ever had. He could become their partner in actively promoting tolerance and learning in ASUS and throughout Queen's. Or the opportunity could be missed completely, replaced instead by a resignation or impeachment process that will stoke the flames of division on campus. It may take more than "mere apologies" to heal a wound, but an eye-for-an-eye makes two wounds instead of one, and that hardly seems like a constructive solution.

Brian Kuchar
ArtSci ’07

Historical injustice

Dear Editors,

Remembrance Day is approaching.

The Students Memorial Union was built in 1949 as a memorial to those Queen’s men and women who fought and died in the two World Wars of the twentieth century. My late father, Harry Smith, designed and built “The Union” (together with six other Queen’s buildings) and took great care in building this wartime testimonial. Alas, today the predominant plaque at the front door describes the building as The John Deutsch University Centre.

I know of no other war memorial that has an individual’s name attached to it. Sir Arthur Currie’s name is not attached to the Vimy memorial. The Memorial Centre in Kingston (1950) was never named after a city mayor. No monarch’s name appears on the Cenotaph in Whitehall. The Students Memorial Union was intended to be a war memorial. It was never intended to be a shrine to an individual. If the boys lying at Passchendaele or Dieppe could wonder they would surely ask why they are entombed there having been marginalized at Queen’s.

The Constitution of the John Deutsch Centre reads in part: “The Student’s Memorial Union since 1929, and the John Deutsch University Centre since 1976, have been the central memorial to the Queen’s students and alumni who fell in World Wars I and II….” The juxtaposition of these words is simply incongruous considering there is no record that Dr. Deutsch served in Canada’s armed forces in WWII.

No disrespect to Dr Deutsch is here intended and I suspect he would feel greatly uncomfortable if he had lived to see his name so linked to the fallen. While the University clearly desires to honour Dr. Deutsch, perhaps it could do so at another entrance or location than the main entrance to “The Union.” To practically replace those that gave “the last true measure of devotion” with a person who did not seems inordinately inappropriate to the writer.

Lest we forget. Queen’s has forgotten, many years ago.

Richard Smith Former Queen’s Student

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.