Photo by Kyle West

From the Student Representative Assembly requiring a survivor to disclose their assault in order for the removal of a perpetrator on the assembly to news of rampant sexual assault within the McMaster Students Union Maroons, this past year has been filled with controversy.

Given the events of this year, and what has occurred in the past, it is shocking that the MSU lacks a formal human resources department.

HR departments exist to deal with workplace disputes and ultimately ensure that employees are aware of their rights as minimally outlined by the Ontario Employment Standards Act. This includes the creation, implementation and enforcement of policies and structures that support employee rights like formal complaint structures and disciplinary policies.

Currently, the only HR presence that exists within the MSU is through the operations coordinator, Maddison Hampel. Though Hampel has formalized HR training and experience, her role does not allow her to adequately support all HR functions of the MSU.

Unfortunately, the only HR-focused training for student employees ends at the mandatory online workplace health and safety training modules that all employees of McMaster University are required to complete.

The majority of student employees, myself included, have never even been formally introduced to Hampel or made aware of our employment rights during our training sessions.

If we had a formal HR department, it is extremely likely that the Maroons sexual assault allegations would have been dealt with appropriately.

In fact, with a proper HR department, policies for sexual assault and workplace harassment would likely already be in place, and be created by individuals with the expertise to do so.

A formal HR department could also allow for better and more comprehensive hiring practices wherein individuals who were previously reported to the department are properly dealt with and not re-hired for other positions within the MSU, a consistent problem of the institution.

At the very least, an HR department that is independent of the MSU could allow student workers to feel comfortable reporting any issues. As it stands, I report my workplace issues to my direct supervisors, but this gets complicated if my concerns are about individuals in positions of power.

An HR department can ensure supervisors are accountable for their actions and held to an expected level of professionalism.   

Josh Marando, president-elect of the MSU for the 2019-2020 year, has acknowledged that the lack of a formal HR department is an issue. One of his platform points is to restructure the internal operations of the MSU.

According to his #BuildTogether platform, he plans to divide the current full-time staff position of operations coordinator to create a specific HR coordinator who is independent from the board.

While the operations coordinator’s role would be shifted to focus largely on supporting clubs and internal operations, the proposed HR coordinator is meant to “support our students through connecting with university programs that have a focus on equity and anti-discrimination.”

Though creation of an independent HR coordinator is an important first step, it is not enough. The MSU is comprised of over 40 full-time permanent staff and 300 part-time student staff. A singular HR coordinator cannot possibly support this vast number of employees.

The lumping of the HR coordinator role with equity and anti-discrimination programs can also be problematic. Certainly the future HR coordinator can and should consult with equity groups to ensure their policies are consistent with student needs, but it is important that the two ultimately remain separate.

This is because it is possible that issues concerning diversity and discrimination may arise from the HR department. This would then make it difficult for individuals to report issues to the same department where the issues stem from.

What the MSU needs is a full-blown autonomous HR department, with policies in place and trained personnel. Only through implementation of an HR department can the MSU truly account for the safety of its student employees.

It’s important to remember that students employed by the MSU are employees. They deserve the same respect and safety enforced by a HR department in any other workplace.

Honestly, student workers should be unionized to ensure their rights are defended. Until they are, the MSU must do a better job in the 2019-2020 year of protecting their employees through implementation of formal HR resources and personnel.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By: Jacqueline McNeill

CW: Mentions of sexual assault

It’s no secret that McMaster University’s “Brighter World” campaign has not been well-received by students, as demonstrated by recent actions by student protestors who replaced the slogan with “Whiter World” on a protest banner and distributed “Whiter World” posters in Dec. 2018.

Besides encouraging racist and ableist ideologies of what a “good”, “smart” or “bright” student is, the Brighter World campaign clashes with the problematic histories of the wealthy, white men that McMaster happily accepts money from; namely from Ron Joyce and Michael DeGroote.

With the recent passing of Joyce, McMaster released a statement claiming that he was a “generous philanthropist, a dedicated volunteer and a great friend to McMaster.”

"He was enthusiastic and committed to making a difference in so many ways, and he will be greatly missed," says McMaster president @PatrickDeane37. Ron Joyce was a generous philanthropist and a dedicated volunteer. We are saddened by his loss. | https://t.co/o73r3l3UKj

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) February 1, 2019

This statement, as well as every narrative McMaster has put forward about Joyce, overlooks the sexual assault allegations against the billionaire in addition to numerous other lawsuits against him. The allegations of these suits include intentional infliction of mental suffering, cheating Lori Horton out of her share of the Tim Horton’s franchise, and more.

Joyce attempted to have the sexual assault suit against him dropped, but the Appeal Court ruled in 2017 that the allegations warranted a trial. At this trial, Joyce maintained that he gave the victim $50,000 as “a gesture of friendship” rather than money to bribe her away. He denied that any assault had occurred, despite the $50,000 in perceived hush money.

The fact that McMaster never cut ties or removed Joyce’s name from our school after these allegations is telling for students.

Amidst the current discussion of how McMaster and the McMaster Students Union treat sexual assault cases and survivors, McMaster’s friendship with Joyce reveals where their priorities lie.

As long as Joyce’s sexual assault trial is left unacknowledged, McMaster continues to send the message that they value capital over the safety and mental health of students and survivors.

McMaster has also explicitly supported Michael DeGroote after his murky financial escapades came to light.

DeGroote, whose name is on our business and medical schools, invested in a casino business venture that initially appeared to be just that. However, he continued to invest even when it was evident that there was organized crime involvement in the venture.

Although it could be argued that DeGroote was unaware of this — however ignorant he’d have to be for this to be the case — he was recorded promising to send $150,000 “no strings attached” to a man who had offered to create evidence to prove that the brothers who started the casino venture had defrauded DeGroote.

“There’s ways of buying evidence, but it’s got to be done right,” DeGroote said in the recording.

Despite the overwhelming evidence generated from a year-long investigation by the CBC and the Globe and Mail, McMaster reaffirmed to CBC that DeGroote is a “thoughtful, visionary, and very generous man,” while refusing to address if DeGroote’s involvement with mafia activity would change the way they accept money from him in the future.

The names of Ron Joyce and Michael DeGroote on our campus are a constant reminder of how little McMaster values its students, and that Mac administration will let anything slide if the donation is big enough. Even if McMaster is unlikely to alter the names of these buildings and schools, it is crucial for students to be aware of where funding for them came from, and the therefore hypocritical nature of McMaster’s Brighter World.

If McMaster truly aims to create a Brighter World which campaigns for the “health and well-being of all”, they can start by scrubbing off these stains on our campus.

 

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By: Sophie Hunt

It has been said that Bill Cosby is a comedic legend, a cultural icon that has influenced the lives of people across the world. Fans still flock to his shows and pay money for front-row seats in order to listen to his jokes. Yet there is a problematic undertone to Cosby’s performances that these people are ignoring.

There are many dedicated fans of comedy that have chosen to look past the recent sexual assault allegations made against Cosby. Nearly 20 women have stepped forward claiming that Cosby, either decades ago or in recent years, sexually assaulted them in various ways. Despite the allegations and charges that began to surface as far back as 2005, fans of the comedian stand with him and continue to support his career. Cosby has recently visited three cities in Southern Ontario, including Hamilton, and avid fans still attended his comedy show, despite the presence of protestors willing to speak out against Cosby at his events.

The reflexive response of Cosby’s fans is not an isolated incident. Many influential celebrities continue to maintain their fan base despite any wrongdoing on their part. We participate in a culture that allows a celebrity’s popularity and career to cloud the conversations about social issues that should come about from scandals such as Cosby’s.

Why have people chosen to ignore the incredibly serious claims made by these women? Fans have been quoted as saying they support the comedian regardless of the allegations made against him, simply because they enjoy his comedy and have grown up watching Cosby’s work.

There is a passive acceptance in our culture that brands influential individuals as untouchable by the backlash that should come about from the crimes they commit. Regardless of whether or not the claims of these women are true, a precedent must be set when dealing with allegations of this nature. The fact that these women’s claims are so willingly overlooked invalidates their voices, and instead works against their efforts to bring to light horrible crimes that potentially have been committed.

The central concern here is the blatant disregard these fans have for the women that have come forward and revealed their claims against Cosby. Instead of supporting the rights of women who have suffered from sexual assault, or even acknowledging that these allegations exist against Cosby, fans are choosing to turn a blind eye to the overall implications of Cosby’s performances. By allowing him to continue to tour, fans are implicitly working against efforts being made to give voice to those who are fighting for the rights of sexual assault victims.

Cosby’s extensive and influential career does not- and should not- completely discredit the allegations that have been made against him by a continuously growing list of women. His “legendary” status should not invalidate these claims, whether or not he is proven guilty. The voices of these women cannot be ignored, and a vital change needs to be made in the way society views celebrities in the wake of serious allegations made against them.

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