CYZ & MAP talk diversity

AMS executive candidates discuss diversity on campus and their plans for moving forward in 2009-10

For next year’s AMS executive, addressing diversity on campus will be one of their biggest undertakings.

If elected to office, Team CYZ plans to create educational forums, which will focus on issues of diversity.

Michael Ceci, presidential candidate, said as part of the Not At My Queen’s campaign, Queen’s faculty will lead discussions on diversity.

“The current climate is that students are afraid to talk. Different people come to Queen’s with their own upbringing and education around these issues,” he said. “It’s important to provide this opportunity to students in a non-judgmental way. Once you get too preachy, you get a push back.”

Leslie Yun, vice-president (operations) candidate, said the educational forums will create a space for students to ask questions.

“There are students out there who want the opportunity for that dialogue. People on campus are not sure if they’re allowed to ask these questions. We need a systematic approach so we can combat these issues at all times. You shouldn’t have to rely on an explosion,” she said. “This is a complex, multi-faceted issue. In some past years, the AMS had a tendency to have a moral high ground. This adds to polarization on campus. We need to facilitate dialogue on campus. As student leaders, if you contribute to division, you fail to serve your mandate.”

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Adam Zabrodski said Team CYZ has spoken with faculty members such as Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane and Diversity Advisor to the Vice-Principal (Academic) Barrington Walker interested in participating in educational discussions. “There are a lot of faculty members who want to come out and discuss these issues.”

Ceci, ArtSci ’09, said the subjects of the forums will be decided by faculty members.

“We have to recognize there are various types of discrimination on campus, whether it’s racism or LGBT issues. The faculty members we’ve talked to have unique things they want to discuss,” he said. “[Diversity] is as much a concern of the faculty as the students.”

Ceci said last semester’s incident involving ASUS President Jacob Mantle showed the need for regular discussions about diversity on campus.

“The incident last term was an outlet. We need regular discussions so feelings aren’t pent up.”

Zabrodski, Sci ’09, said educational forums are needed to foster an inclusive Queen’s community.

“With the punitive approach, people only become more entrenched in their position.”

Yun, ArtSci ’10, said the creation of a Diversity and Equity Advisor by ASUS is a good initiative.

“I don’t think it’s at all a negative thing that ASUS is doing this,” she said. “There is lots of potential for cross-collaboration. It doesn’t come down to one or two people in an office.

“A lot of students feel a disconnect from the AMS compared to their faculty society because of things like frosh week. Having focus on diversity on the faculty society level will alleviate pressure from the AMS.”

Ceci said there are resources on campus which are not used as much as they could be.

“The Human Rights Office has not been approached in four years in terms of structuring workshops.”

Other initiatives by Team CYZ to promote diversity would include increasing food options for students who follow Halal and Kosher dietary restrictions and ensuring the safety of student clubs, such as Queen’s University Muslim Students’ Association (QUMSA), Ceci said.

“Queen’s is excluding a large portion of a very diverse population. AMS needs to set the example by providing these food options at CoGro and the QP.” Yun said Team CYZ has spoken to TAPS Manager and AMS Food and Safety Director about the initiative. If AMS services are unable to accommodate Halal and Kosher food options Team CYZ will work with the cafeterias to increase the variety of food options, she said.

“A new space for [QUMSA] will be in a secure place in the Queen’s Centre. If students don’t feel comfortable at their institution it’s a huge problem.”

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Team MAP vice-president (university affairs) candidate Suhail Panjwani said students on campus aren’t naive about these issues.

“Right now I don’t think awareness is enough. I think that there’s already an awareness that these issues exist.”

Panjwani said an alternative way of addressing oppression on campus must be implemented.

“We need to address this in a more proactive approach, meaning that we do education on these issues in a more reflective way, so it’s self-changing. It’s not ‘We need to do this’ or ‘We need to do that.’ It’s more, ‘I’m going to change myself.’”

Panjwani said, if elected, MAP would implement outsourced diversity- and racism-related workshops offered by the National Coalition Building Institute, a non-profit leadership training group based out of Washington D.C.

Panjwani experienced the program firsthand as part of his don training.

“What it does is it makes you question your prejudices and biases in a non-threatening manner,” he said. “It’s important for students to understand that it’s not sensitivity training. It’s more of a reflective workshop where people can really challenge their beliefs and values.”

Presidential candidate Colin McLeod said the NCBI program is a part of Residence Life’s don training.

“We’re not going blindly into this, we know it’s positive and it won’t polarize people.”

McLeod said the initative has administrative support for the funding of the $20,000 sessions.

“We have financial commitments to them from Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker and Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane,” he said. “It’s an expensive session, but it won’t be paid for totally by the AMS. It’s a joint effort between the administration and the AMS.”

Panjwani said his team hopes that through education and more unified enforcement, Queen’s will become a more welcoming campus environment.

“The whole educational process will definitely help change the climate on this campus and hopefully make it more safe for students who don’t feel comfortable right now. We need to provide them with the resources available,” he said. “There needs to be a better connection between the Kingston police and also Campus Security. I think that Walkhome has to be well aware of these incidents as well.”

Panjwani said there also needs to be more clarity regarding incident reporting procedure.

“There needs to be more communication. I’ve spoken to QUMSA and in the light of recent events, they’ve found that the reporting process for them is really convoluted.” Vice-president (operations) candidate Ellen Allwright said the issues of diversity and racism on campus should be addressed in the AMS clubs system.

“We have so many cultural clubs on campus, and what they need is that support so that people can be educated. They’re there because they love their culture and that’s why they join these clubs,” she said. “So, if we could get more and more people involved and really educate them about what these clubs do, that’s really getting to the bottom of it.”

Presidential candidate Colin McLeod said his team wants to foster a campus environment that encourages more open dialogue.

“I think it’s really important that we have this underlining understanding of the issues. We can’t focus on incidents. It’s inevitable that incidents will arise, but it’s by knowing these issues beforehand that will make us stronger when those things do happen,” he said. “It’s going to make student leaders aware, student leaders comfortable speaking up and I’d say that’s what was lacking this year. People were afraid to talk about the issues. You can’t focus on one individual. You need to focus on the overall problems.”

McLeod said MAP wants to encourage more unity amongst social justice advocators on campus.

“That comes down to faculty relations as well. It’s great for ASUS to have their new diversity advisor position, but we should work together on projects. That’s the same with [Diversity Advisor to the Vice-Principal (Academic)] Barrington Walker as well in order to make sure the curriculum addresses social justice as well and social issues. As much as ASUS has their new advisor, it’s important that because they’re a part of the AMS that we work together.”

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