New AMS committee to tackle institutional racism head-on

Committee on Inclusion at Queen’s hiring two positions from the student body 

Journal file photo

“If you look at the reports that have been produced throughout the years, there’s definitely work to be done,” AMS Social Issues Commissioner Lea Keren said.

The reports Keren mentioned pertain to institutionalized racism on campus — an issue she herself will soon be digging deeper into as one of the eight members making up the new AMS Committee on Inclusion.

Currently, she’s looking for two members of the student body to join her. In light of a recent string of events that sparked controversy and outcry from students and faculty over the last semester, the new committee will partner with the Committee Against Racism and Ethnic Discrimination (CARED) at Queen’s, which resides under the AMS, to further promote cultural and racial awareness.

“What it seeks to do is institutionalize how we can prevent racism [and] address racism,” Keren told The Journal regarding the new committee.

“There are things that the AMS as a whole could be doing, and as a student government they should be lobbying for within the University,” she said. “That way we can have a more holistic goal, as opposed to just the grassroots work that CARED has been doing.”

The eight-person team will consist of Keren, Vice-President (University Affairs) Carolyn Thompson, the co-chairs of CARED, two elected members of AMS Assembly and two members of the student body who can currently apply online.

The committee intends to start by raising awareness for already-available resources. “We plan on talking about making the Peer Support Centre more accessible,” Keren said.

“There are resources on campus, but maybe they’re not necessarily as welcoming or being used by students,” she said, though she quickly added, “I wouldn’t say that they aren’t as welcoming, but maybe students aren’t as aware of the resources that they could be using.”

Although Keren told The Journal that they haven’t had any concrete action yet, she said multiple suggestions had been put forward internally to the AMS, such as making sure that the AMS has a training toolkit to give out to student leaders.

The idea of hosting cultural nights every week for different cultures was also presented.

When asked about why the AMS had only just recently decided to implement this committee, she cited the casting for Queen’s production of Othello, as well as the “Beerfest” party that took place in November as a few of the main catalysts.

“I think the committee could have been formed earlier, that’s for sure,” she said. “There’s no denying that the party spurred a greater sense of urgency within the AMS to address this issue.”

“Parties like this happen all the time,” Keren said. “It wasn’t a one-off incident, it didn’t happen in isolation, it’s not this one racist party that happened. I think we have instances all the time that are concerning.”

Keren believes that this new committee will be a great opportunity for students on the outside to really make effective change, and encourages anyone interested to apply. “It’s a pretty decent time commitment, but a really tangible way of making a difference on our campus,” she said.

Applications for the Committee on Inclusion are due Wednesday, January 19.

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