A committee made up of students, staff and faculty has been working on updating Mount Allison’s campus racism policy. The current version was last updated in 1999. This committee was formed in response to a recommendation made by the organizing committee for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD).
In addition to bringing multiple events to campus, the IDERD committee released a report of recommendations on March 21, 2015. The report sought to address questions such as: “Why does racism persist?; what does a racism-free campus and community look like?; and what steps can we take to build a racism-free campus and community?”
The report suggested a four-year timeline of goals, one of which was to update the campus racism policy. Other goals included the introduction of an annual racial sensitivity training for residence staff and annual anti-racism diversity training during orientation week. No anti-racism training oc
curred during orientation week this year.
The committee currently taking the lead on updating the race policy includes Ryan LeBreton, Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) president; Dia Minors, alumnus and former member of Black Students for Advocacy, Awareness, & Togetherness (BSAAT); and Doreen Richard, Indigenous affairs coordinator.
A notable change in the policy is the course of action a student takes when filing a complaint through the university. The new procedure includes both formal and informal components. The informal process focuses on trying to educate the individuals involved and works towards reconciliation within the community. The formal process involves a written complaint followed by an investigation and review by a Racism Judicial Panel. It will be up to the complainant to choose which course of action to pursue.
The current 1998 version of the policy indicates that the university has the option to take “no action whatever” in response to a complaint. The updated policy will not include this.
LeBreton said the committee discussed hiring an equity officer. “[The equity officer’s] job will be to deal with any complaints or accusations about race.” According to LeBreton, the equity officer would play a similar role to the mental health educator or the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) advisor.
Mt. A students have reported recent instances of racism on and off campus.
One woman, to whom the Argosy has granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation, described being fetishized at Ducky’s.
She said certain individuals were aiming to ‘collect’ sexual experiences with people of different racial groups. “As a woman of colour, it is uncomfortable to hear people saying, ‘I like dating women of colour,’ or ‘I like women of colour,’” she said.
Emma Hassencahl, a fourth-year fine arts student, recalled an incident that occurred at her art exhibition last year at the Owens Art Gallery. In reaction to a fact about scalping which she had printed and laid out in the gallery, a visiting group of individuals argued that the practice of scalping had never existed.
Several people witnessed a discussion on racism that took place in a sociology class at Mt. A on Sept. 8. A white student explicitly denied the existence of racism, leading to a classwide debate.
First-year student Noah Lubendo, who was present during the incident, said that the incident “speaks to general race blindness that is apparent and very dominant through a lot of our youth.” He added that “we need to educate people on the social inequality that minorities have to face on a daily basis.”
The discussion occurred in professor Morgan Poteet’s introductory sociology class.
“Although sometimes views are expressed that are, in my opinion, fairly ignorant,” said Poteet of the incident, “at least we are having a conversation.”