Fixating on phobias

Aissa Boodhoo-Leegsma
April 4, 2013
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

A movement called “Bringing an End to Facultyphobia,” initially spawned by reactions to a Silhouette Opinions article condemning Kipling Pranks as discriminatory, quickly picked up momentum in preparation for an inter-faculty event on April 3.

But the event was not to be.

Zachary Strong, Engineering student and Facebook event creator, explained how health and safety problems prevented the actual event from occurring. He hopes for a physical, planned event during the week of April 8.

“It looks like the event is going to remain nebulous. It may not happen the way we envisioned it, but the level of discussion is there, so it’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Issue has been taken with the description of faculty stereotyping as a type of phobia. David Campbell, MSU VP (Administration), felt that “phobia is a bit overstated, simply because I think it compares it with homophobia and racial issues which go a lot deeper and have a lot of context to them.” Strong admits that this may not be the ideal word to describe the actions and behavior he has experienced or heard about second-hand.

The initial Facebook event referenced ending “Engphobia,” but it was later renamed “Facultyphobia” in order to include the wide body of students who may feel discriminated against or mistreated on the basis of their faculty.

Strong reiterated that he was intent on reaching out to other faculties, and dismissed the idea that this was an Engineering-specific phenomenon or that Engineering students would be a majority of the participants in the “End Facultyphobia” event.

The McMaster Engineering Society issued a statement on their Facebook account announcing that they had chosen to distance themselves from the End Facultyphobia movement, despite recognizing and appreciating the need to break down faculty stigmas.

“We feel it has grown out of hand and is turning out to be quite the opposite of the initial intentions to shed a positive light on our University and its faculties. We absolutely love the idea of a University wide event that fosters the growth and relationships between students. We don’t, however, think this is the proper venue or time to do so,” said the statement.

Campbell explained that while he appreciated the importance of starting inter-faculty dialogue, he believed there has been a continued decrease in faculty tension in the last few years.

Both Campbell and Strong specifically pinpointed Welcome Week as the primary vehicle for building and breaking down faculty stereotypes.

“From the planning perspective, it was a specific topic of discussion during training for faculty reps. Planners specifically discussed how cheers degrading a faculty help no one,” said Campbell.

But Strong has asserted that there is an absence of one forum for all faculties to report incidents of stereotyping. Part of his goal is for students to complete an online survey to share their experiences. The results of this survey will be compiled and sent to faculty societies and the Student Success Centre.

When asked if he felt airing these stereotypes could do more harm then good, perpetuating and introducing new stereotypes, Strong argued that, “Ultimately, the alternative is isolation, and that doesn't really help either, so there is a risk. But would we be any better off if everyone just stayed away and did their own thing? I would say no.”

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