At Assembly, members discuss racism on campus

AMS president, rector condemn recent events

Assembly gathered on Thursday night.
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AMS Assembly gathered Thursday night to discuss recent events on campus, including a special discussion period set aside to discuss racism in the community.

The discussion comes three days after The Journal reported that students held a Coronavirus-themed party over the weekend, which led to the resignation of former Undergraduate Trustee Tyler Macintyre, who apologized for his attendance on Monday.

“I love Queen’s and this institution, but there is definitely a negative side. Every once in a while, there is something that occurs that sparks a lot of controversy and a lot of discussion, and then it fizzles out,” AMS President Auston Pierce said, opening the discussion. “There is a cultural problem on our campus.”

Rector Alex Da Silva also spoke about campus culture. “People are drawing links and intersections between what happened on the weekend and Chown Hall, what’s happened in the past, the misogynistic Facebook page. All of those things come from similar systems of oppression.”

Natasha Zhang, ConEd ’20, addressed assembly to speak about her experiences as a Chinese international student. She spoke about the racism she saw in comments under a post on Overheard at Queen’s, the popular Queen’s Facebook page, and its effects on Chinese and Asian students. “We want to bridge cultural gaps, but we can’t make it mandatory for everyone to attend anti-racism workshops. I think what would speak most to people is personal stories,” she said.

Responding to concerns brought up by incoming ASUS Representative to the AMS, John Le, ArtSci ’22, Rector da Silva informed Assembly that Queen’s is changing how residence educates incoming first-year students on diversity. “Queen’s is very behind in the sense that most universities function off a curricular model,” she said. “Next year, the educational program will come from the top-down, instead of coming from Dons, which allows for more consistency.”

William Greene, AMS vice-president (University Affairs), agreed with the need to focus on first-year students. “One thing we talked to administrators about is the need to get at first years as soon as they come [to Queen’s], because culture is built over years and years. A lot of these things are embedded deep in our students.”

AMS Commissioner of Social Issues Bunisha Samuels echoed the sentiments of the discussion. “It’s important for us to create communities that are built around accountability, as well as solidarity and allianceship,” she said. “Are we only having dialogue? What are the action pieces?”

Zhang detailed stories of her friends and fellow Chinese international students facing outright discrimination, particularly in residence. “Acts of aggression and mockery are very concerning to students who just came to campus,” she said. “They don’t know where to go for help.”

However, the real problem isn’t the lack of resources for international or marginalized students, Zhang said. “The people who are causing trouble and hurting other people are not being held accountable.”

Summer Chen, newly-elected ASUS representative to the AMS, built on Zhang’s remarks. “Do we have any punishments or actions toward people involved in the party?”

Responding to Chen’s question, AMS Secretary of Internal Affairs Lucas Borchenko informed Assembly that the Non-Academic Misconduct (NAM) system reduced its scope this year, and doesn’t have jurisdiction over events that happen off campus.

Samuels offered final remarks before Pierce closed the discussion. “As someone who identifies as being part of the Black and South Asian community on campus, I don’t necessarily think the issue is about us having these conversations,” she said. “That is our lived identity. It’s not something we turn on and off. We’re already having these conversations. The question is, is everyone else who doesn’t identify as being part of our community having these conversations?”

President’s report

Pierce began his report by congratulating next year’s newly-elected AMS executive, Team AJA. He highlighted the new AMS website and structural changes taking place in the AMS, including the revamping of the Marketing and Communications Office and a new full-time Research Manager.

He also announced that he and Borchenko are working to establish a new faculty society under the AMS, the Faculty of Health Sciences. A newly-written constitution will be going to referendum by Health Sciences students shortly, and Pierce hopes it will be passed at next Assembly.

Vice-President (Operations)’s report

Vice President (Operations) Jessica Dahanayake announced eight new salaried staff positions under AMS Services, and that Common Ground Coffeehouse plans to implement mobile ordering in April.

Dahanayake also updated Assembly on Queen’s Period.

“Tomorrow we have a meeting with the vice-principal (Finance and Administration), and we’re going to pitch to have the free dispensers of menstrual products in the Student Life Centre and high-circulated academic buildings,” she said.

She has also been meeting with Queen’s Housing and ResSoc to talk about educational campaigns. Posters will be circulated this month, and Queen’s Housing will be installing Take One, Leave One bins on the ground floors of their main residence buildings.

Other motions passed

Before moving into Discussion Period, Assembly ratified 23 new clubs, including Queen’s Economic Case Competition, Queen’s Premedical Society, and Queen’s Women of Colour Collective.

Corrections

The headline has been updated to more accurately reflect the nature of conversations at Assembly. The article has been updated to reflect John Le's accurate position and the correct spelling of Natasha Zhang's last name.

The Journal regrets the error.

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