RTZ addresses ‘cliquey’ culture at November equity town hall

AMS announces new ‘whistleblower policy’

Student leaders gathered at equity town hall to discuss EDII.
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On Nov. 16, the AMS Commissioner of Social Issues and the ASUS Equity Commission jointly hosted an equity town hall. Moderated by Ayden Adeyanju-Jackson, EDII assistant at Yellow House, student leaders from the AMS and faculties responded to equity concerns submitted by the student body.

Ensuring safe spaces

The town hall kicked off with a question about how student leaders can ensure safe space in a “predominantly white” university for queer and racialized folks, and what steps student governments are doing to create such avenues.

“The issues faced by those different groups are markedly different,” Omar Baboolal, Commerce Society (ComSoc) President said. “I think grouping them all together can be reductive, especially when it comes to how we institutionalize well-being and support for those communities.”

Baboolal said ComSoc is focusing on institutionalizing wellness, ideas of equity, and dismantling systemic barriers.

Tiana Wong, AMS Vice-President (Operations), added the AMS supports safe spaces through the Peer Support Centre (PSC) BIPOC Talk initiative.

“BIPOC Talk is a subset of the PSC that is tailored towards people of colour. They can guarantee they’re going to come speak to a peer that’s a person of colour,” Wong explained.

Wong said one of the things that came out of the recent student experience survey was the need for additional support tailored towards “queer and trans” students.

Adeyanju-Jackson followed up with a student question on implementing an equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) framework into the AMS Constitution.

AMS President Zaid Kasim said the AMS is working towards adding an EDII portion into the AMS constitution as a guiding document for students to hold their student government accountable.

Allegations of ‘Cliquey Culture’

During the meeting, a student question was directed at Team RTZ concerning the senior management team’s “cliquey culture.”

READ MORE: Former AMS senior management staff speak to why they resigned

Adeyanju-Jackson asked RTZ how they planned to foster a more inclusive environment.

“I think one of the things we’ve implemented is transforming our senior management caucus,” Wong said.

According to Wong, senior management caucus—where staff members individually share updates for their service—has proven ineffective in the past. This year, Wong said Team RTZ has “transformed” it into an “open dialogue” where team members can discuss issues with their managers.

Wong added that hiring professional HR staff has also been valuable to fostering inclusivity.

“[Professional HR] should feel like they’re external and [AMS staff members] can go to them without any fear or judgement or their anonymity being released,” she said.

Adeyanju-Jackson followed up with RTZ’s response by asking how the team is addressing recent resignations from the senior management team—three of which were by women of colour.

“Obviously, it’s challenging to have folks quit,” Kasim said. “As an executive, we’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback, and I’ve been sitting on it. The reason that folks quit sometimes cannot be generalized to one reason.”

Kasim said RTZ hopes to implement mechanisms for additional “confidential and anonymous” feedback.

Ryan Sieg, AMS Vice-President (University Affairs), said the implementation of a new “whistleblower policy” should be additionally beneficial moving forward. Sieg said the policy will allow any racialized students to flag acts of discrimination without facing internal repercussions.

In response, Adeyanju-Jackson said feedback gathered by Team RTZ during the resignation processes doesn’t explain the “coincidental” stepping down of three women of colour from their positions.

“You implied that it was coincidental, but you still have institutional measures in place,” he said.

Adeyanju-Jackson added that if the resignations were caused by systemic or cultural biases, “institutional measures” would be ineffective in preventing further resignations. 

After some probing from Adeyanju-Jackson on the nature of the recent resignations, Kasim admitted that it might not be “completely coincidental” that three women of colour senior managers resigned.

“I think the executives are still trying to contend with, identify, and learn from it,” Kasim said. “I would be lying to everyone if I said I had the answer, and I don’t.”

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