This Thursday, the corner of University and Union saw a heated protest from students of colour directed at the University administration.
Called the Eyes on Diversity and Equity Coalition, this newly formed group gathered and demanded the University administration be held accountable for their promises to combat racism on campus.
The group yielded signs with messages like “What time is it Mr. Woolf?” and wore t-shirts that read “Barry + Henry + DARE + DET + Woolf…? #175yearsofracism.” Parodying a traditional ArtSci Orientation Week cheer, one student asked the group “How do we feel?” to which they replied, “We feel so tired, oh we feel so tired, oh!”
The coalition involves several clubs, including the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS), the African Caribbean Student Association (ACSA), Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), Levana Gender Advocacy Center, Q-Mix, Equitable Queen’s, Ontario Public Interest Research Group Kingston and Queen’s University Muslim Student Association.
According to an informative pamphlet provided to The Journal, the Eyes on Diversity and Equity Coalition aims to “address the issues surrounding both racial and cultural discrimination on Queen’s campus […] in light of racial tensions on campus and in the Kingston community both historically and currently.”
The pamphlet also identifies the coalition’s specific goals, which include the creation of a dedicated space for social justice on campus, additional funding for equity-seeking student groups, more scholarships for students of colour and more.
The united clubs compiled a list of 12 specific demands directed at the University administration, which they delivered to several administrative buildings on campus. The group stopped at the Principal’s Office, the Faculty of Arts and Science office in Dunning Hall and the University Registrar in Gordon Hall, amongst others.
According to Nyah Hernandez, ArtSci ’18, the group also plans to bring their demands to this month’s Senate meeting on Nov. 28.
Enforcement of recommendations from the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion, as well as forming clear guidelines to address racism from the University Code of Conduct and Non-Academic Misconduct system are at the top of the list of demands.
Moreover, Eyes on Diversity and Equity Coalition demands all staff, faculty and wellness counsellors at Queen’s receive comprehensive training on how to deal with issues like racism, transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression.
The coalition also demands the administration release a public statement explaining why last year’s racist party wasn’t penalized under the Non-Academic Misconduct system, asks for more inclusive curriculum, Orientation Week activities and dedicated spaces on campus for students of colour.
The Journal spoke with several students involved in the protest about their experience and motivation for being engaged in the protest.
“We want to see change actually happen,” Basmah Rahman, ConEd ’18, told The Journal. “People really disregard aspects of race issues at Queen’s.”
According to Nuria Mahmud, ArtSci ’19, issues of race at Queen’s have both academic and social effects. During the protest, Mahmud said a group of white males walked by the group laughing and said, “What’s the point? We should have a protest against them.”
“No one’s taking this problem seriously,” Haya Hassouneh, ArtSci ’21, said. “The fact that we’re telling people that we’re uncomfortable and we don’t feel safe and they’re just ignoring it and saying that it’s not a real problem is why we’re doing this.”
“As a person of colour on campus, I know the racism I face […] I know these things are constantly happening to me. So just because it’s not in the eyesight of everybody else on campus doesn’t mean it’s not occurring,” Hernandez told The Journal.
According to Hernandez, Eyes on Diversity and Equity Coalition is hoping more groups and clubs on campus will join them in their efforts in the near future.
“We’re not going to sit by and wait,” Hernandez said. “We have our eyes on the administration — the time is now.”
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