By: Neda Pirouzmand
One of the key issues that the MSU points out in the “Health and Wellness” policy paper is that referrals from the Student Wellness Centre are not tailored to the needs of students.
The MSU suggests that the SWC neglects to account for how students will reach community referrals or how much it will cost them.
The policy paper brings forward a number of recommendations to combat these issues, proposing the SWC connect with MSU peer support services to provide support for McMaster’s diverse student population.
The MSU also recommends that the SWC offer harm reduction services and feedback opportunities to students.
The policy paper also includes recommendations for other university stakeholders, suggesting that professors and teaching assistants be required to undergo mental health first aid training.
According to this policy paper, McMaster off-campus resource centre resources are underused by students. The OCRC has not posted on Facebook since April 2017.
Another issue is that demand is overtaking supply in the student housing market. The quantity and quality of available housing opportunities is on the decline.
In light of these issues, the MSU recommends the city of Hamilton to proceed with its proposed investment of $347,463 to hire three full-time employees for a two-year rental licensing pilot project beginning in 2019 to annually inspect buildings in Hamilton.
The MSU also suggests that McMaster seek more public-private partnerships to improve the supply of nearby student housing.
This policy paper first notes that McMaster has a ten year plan to make its campus “car free,” which would reduce accessibility by moving the HSR bus stop from University and Sterling Street to the McMaster Go bus station.
According to the paper, another accessibility concern lies in the fact that most McMaster professors neither consider nor actively incorporate strategies and recommendations outlined in McMaster’s accessibility resources.
The paper also points out that learning materials are often inequitable and the university has significant work to do when it comes to promoting and implementing accessible pedagogy.
The MSU puts forward a number of recommendations to improve the university’s accessibility practices.
The paper argues that all professors teaching in rooms fitted for podcasting should post podcasts and use accessible formats for supplementary class material.
In addition, the paper suggests that intramurals reduce their pre-playoff participation requirement from 50 to 30 per cent, as students with disabilities may not be able to make all games.
According to the paper, student accessibility services should have an open catalogue for student notes, where students in need would not be limited to resources from one student.
The dominant issue highlighted in this policy paper is the fact that faculty staff and many student groups do not receive mandatory anti-oppressive practices training.
In addition, according to the paper, McMaster Security Services has been involved in the excessive carding and racial profiling of students.
Another issue concerns the fact that there exists no record-keeping system of student demographics in relation to enrollment and dropout rates by faculty.
Students are also largely unaware of the McMaster Religious, Spiritual, and Indigenous Observances policy.
Some recommendations in the paper call for McMaster to explore alternative enrollment application streams for underrepresented groups.
The paper also suggests that applicants looking for research funding from Mcmaster identify how their research will appeal to or account for marginalized populations.
According to the paper, McMaster should mandate equity and diversity requirements for all undergrads.
Chairs of hiring committees, security staff, teaching assistants and faculty members should undergo mandatory AOP training.
Another recommendation calls for the EIO to investigate carding and racial profiling trends centered around McMaster Security Services.
By: Fabiha Islam
I was born on a rainy afternoon in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My birth was somewhat atypical as rainfall is the last thing you’d expect from Saudi Arabia’s dry and hot weather. Strangely, the rain led to many of my relatives making the comment that the desert might not be the place for me.
Unbelievable but true, a simple brochure from my father’s workplace about one of the world’s top universities turned my life upside-down. I got to know about this amazing university with cutting-edge research opportunities known as McMaster, and wanted to be there.
My endless insisting finally made my parents agree to send their daughter to a completely different country in the farthest continent from home.
In the airport, my parents were concerned if I’d be able to undergo the immigration processes myself, as travelling alone wasn’t exactly what a women In Saudi Arabia would normally do.
On my first day in Canada, I faced an unworldly snowstorm. Snow always fascinated me since the only place I would ever see it was in movies. However, little did I know of the harsh weather the beautiful snow brings with it.
When I saw McMaster in person for the very first time, the word “home” was the first thing to come to my mind. The campus had a sense of deep intimacy as it covered a beautiful, little area with all of its buildings so close together.
Despite being covered in snow, everything on campus looked beautiful, and I knew that I made the right choice.
I lived in Les Prince Hall in my first year and was proud of myself for being able to live, eat and even walk alone, without my parents around. Saudi Arabia never let women go out without any assistance, so it may seem strange that I hadn’t even walked alone to the corner store next to my house until coming to McMaster.
Although I didn’t have any problems with the language since I was brought up in an English-speaking environment, it took time to adapt to the weather and cultural differences. I struggled quite a bit in my first days due to constant snowstorms, icy roads, different food and how everything goes quiet after 9:00 p.m.
Back in Saudi Arabia, the city would wake up after 9:00 p.m. as the desert was burning hot during daytime, restricting any outdoor activity. Entertainment was very different from what I experienced before and so initially, I actually struggled to have fun.
In my opinion, cultural differences will forever exist but it is not what should controls our sense of closeness and familiarity. In a new culture, it is crucial to be open to exploring new ideas and trying to find out specific things from the new environment which are suited to your own expectations.
I developed a more positive attitude and felt at home when exploring made me realize that there isn’t any major difference after all.
A major difference is only when there is a change in the key component of our survival, that is, human interaction. Despite different language, food and weather, human beings were always the same to me.
The way you perceive a person is completely subjective and depends on our own minds other than any certain culture and fortunately, my mind and thoughts were still unchanged.
I would like to thank McMaster University for being so dear, inclusive and family-like. The incredible openness and friendly attitude of the campus community makes me feel completely “at home” despite being miles away from my family!
McMaster University is currently taking its second employment equity census to evaluate the diversity of McMaster’s staff and faculty.
The voluntary census is open to all McMaster employees and identifies the representation of five target groups: women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQA2S+ employees.
The census comes three years after the first census, which was taken in 2016 and produced the first employment equity report and led to the development of McMaster’s employment equity framework.
According to the report from the 2016 census, 43.07 per cent of all McMaster staff and faculty participated. Of that 43 per cent, only 2.12 per cent across the institution self-identified as part of the LGBTQA2S+ community.
In a number of high participation-rates groups, less than two per cent per cent identified as Aboriginal, 10.18 per cent indicated they were members of visible minority groups and less than four per cent indicated that they had a disability.
61.93 per cent identified as women.
According to the report, the representation of women was above representation in the overall Canadian labour force statistics, while internal representation of Indigenous individuals and individuals with disabilities fell below them.
The visible minority representation was far below external representation.
One recommendation from the first census was that McMaster form an employment equity implementation team to promote the employment equity framework.
Since 2017, May-Marie Duwai-Sowa, the university’s employment equity specialist, has been working closely with Arig al Shaibah, the associate vice president (Equity and Inclusion), to improve McMaster’s employment equity.
According to Duwai-Sowa, over a thousand faculty members, chairs and directors have undergone training for equitable hiring and recruitment practices. The EEIT will also run Indigenous cultural competency training for many McMaster employees on March 8.
One pilot project that has been implemented by the EEIT is a self-ID survey for interviews within certain faculties, where applicants were asked to identify their background.
“If you have candidates from diverse backgrounds that meet the requirements, there should be no reason why they should not make your long or short list,” Duwai-Sowa said. “The focus is still obviously hiring excellent candidates that meet the bar of excellence and meet the requirements that are in the posting.”
Duwai-Sowa also pointed to McMaster’s efforts to reach applicants from different backgrounds. For example, McMaster is ensuring its jobs are posted on Indigenous Link, a website to help Indigenous communities find employment.
“It is really about making sure our workforce is diverse now so we are meeting the needs of our students because our student population is also diverse,” Duwai-Sowa said.
One key recommendation from the 2016 report yet to be implemented is a systems-wide review of current hiring and retention practices and policies. This is expected to begin soon and be released by the end of 2019.
Noticeably absent from both the 2016 report and the upcoming 2019 employment census is race-specific data.
Many major Canadian universities still do not collect data on the race of their faculty and students.
“We are currently working on incorporating disaggregate breakdowns of radicalized groups and Indigenous peoples for both the employee census, applicant self- ID survey and student self ID survey, which is planned to be initiated this fall,” said Duwai-Sowa.
The equity and inclusion team is hoping to release the results of this year’s employment census in the upcoming fall.
By: Drew Simpson
Over a month of Hamilton Youth Poet’s Black Poet Residency has passed. So far, the residency has taken place at the Art Gallery of Hamilton every Saturday and the weekly residency will continue until May.
HYP is an arts organization that launched in October 2012. The organization’s four main goals are to manifest a community of cultural understanding, offer youth tools to deliver their writing and literary skill, engage youth towards their academic ambitions and to support aspiring artists’ professional development.
Ultimately, HYP empowers young people by offering training as arts organizers and allowing youth to take part in the planning, promotion and facilitation of events. One of these events is the Black Poet Residency featuring Ian Keteku, a two-time national slam champion and multimedia artist, as a key facilitator.
Although both the organization and event have poets within its name, participants may be beyond the scope of experienced poets. Those who wish to develop their writing skills, editing, computer literacy and even multi-digital processes will benefit from the residency.
“Those interested need not regard themselves as poets or require any prior knowledge of poetry. The residency aims to transcend simply writing poems,” explains one of HYP’s teaching artists, Akintoye Asalu.
This residency is in line with HYP’s focus on youth-focused events coordinated by youths, as it is aimed towards youth writers, performers and creative-minded individuals. As mentioned by Asalu, anyone who is interested in bettering their skills is welcome to attend.
“When our young people can tell and re-tell their histories in the context of public platforms, they are able to imagine and re-imagine their individual and collective identities and become culturally grounded in their own experiences,” explains HYP’s website.
The residency aims to provide an inclusive and supportive space which allows black youth to express their experiences and explore their voices. Such a weekly residency is necessary in Hamilton, to amplify often-silenced voices while also developing skills and building community. Asalu can attribute the prosperity of this residency as a participant himself.
“Being able to sit down and converse with people who understand the struggles that come with being a [person of colour] motivates me to keep using my art to help our community in as many ways as I can… My only hope is that the healthy dialogue that exists within the residency will spread to the rest of the community,” explains Asalu.
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Poetry and art directly combat the sense of isolation people of colour experience on a daily basis. Especially as they face daily experiences with institutions that were built without them in mind.
Asalu describes how poetry allows him to be the voice for those cast in silence; bringing light to silenced struggles. He also finds poetry as a healthy coping mechanism. Every HYP event puts youth at the center. Therefore, a Black-focused residency, puts Black youth at the center; a position that may be unfamiliar to them.
“I want Black people all around the city to feel comfortable talking about the things they go through on a day-to-day basis without fear of judgment from those around them. It is my belief that in order to enact change, we must first begin with constructive dialogue. Through this dialogue, constructive actions can be taken to improve the quality of life for [people of colour] as a whole,” explains Asalu.
This residency can be the defining moment for many Black youths in Hamilton. Raising their voices, attending to their mental health and finding support in community are never-ending obstacles for black youth. The ability to express struggles and unbox silenced concerns while doing so is a grand goal that when realized makes a positive difference in a young person’s life.
By: Rya Buckley
Mia Sandhu’s paper cut outs depict images of women partially or entirely nude, amidst backgrounds of leaves or behind curtains. She began working on these figures four years ago as a way of working through her own ideas about women’s sexuality.
Sandhu is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Toronto. Her work has been exhibited in Toronto, Kingston, Halifax and Hamilton. She is a member of The Assembly gallery here in Hamilton, has done an artist residency at the Cotton Factory and also exhibited her work at Hamilton Artists Inc.
Last November, Sandhu exhibited her collection Soft Kaur at The Assembly, which featured playful figures who are comfortable with their sexuality. The name of the exhibition, which alludes to both to the softness and fierceness of women, incorporates the half Punjabi artist’s cultural background into her work.
“It's the idea [of] a female warrior spirit and the idea of equality that exists… Singh and Kaur are these given names and it was designed to eliminate status and… [create] men and women as equal. And I liked the play on this idea of soft female spirit slash warrior spirit [and] also the sexual undertone,” Sandhu explained.
There are other motifs in Sandhu’s work that suggest a dialogue between Sandhu’s culture and her evolving ideas on sexuality. A lover of Indian fabrics, silks and tapestries, Sandhu includes these aesthetic features in her work through the exotic plants in the environment her figures reside in. With the evolution of her work, she now references more domesticated plants that humans have formed a relationship with.
The silhouettes that are seen in Soft Kaur are also the result of Sandhu’s art’s progression. Her earlier work featured brown-bodied figures because Sandhu felt it more appropriate to use brown bodies in a work related to her upbringing and culture. Over time Sandhu employed more silhouettes in order to represent any woman, regardless of race.
The silhouettes do not broadcast as a uniform but as a canvas onto which women can project their own sexuality and ideas about sexuality. Sandhu is a believer in the fact that no one should decide for a woman how she should be represented sexually in society.
“I want women to be safe and I want them to feel safe and feel free and strong and empowered… [W]e're autonomous [and] each of us should choose for ourselves how we want to be represented sexually or in any other way because we're individuals. Hopefully we're not represented with any sort of attachment to shame. We should just be proud of who we are,” Sandhu said.
Facilitating space for women to speak about their ideas on sexuality was one of Sandhu’s aims behind this body of work. She finds it interesting to observe how her audiences connect with and interpret her art. By enabling dialogue, she finds that women can begin to realize the experiences that they share.
Exhibiting at The Assembly also gave Sandhu a location to speak with others about her work and to receive feedback. One thing that she appreciates about the Hamilton art scene is the sincerity of the participants who she feels are open to talking about important issues and are creating art that is driven by content.
While there is no linear narrative to Sandhu’s work, the content is obviously evolving as Sandhu’s own views develop. One of the motifs whose symbolism has changed over the years is the cloak that Sandhu’s figures have covering and revealing their bodies.
“[The cloak] represents shame, it represents personal space and it represents a number of other things as well… But it's like they're choosing how much of themselves that they're revealing and then as the work evolves, it's like the… cloak… stops being on them directly and starts being like in their space around them and they're allowing you in, or not letting you in,” explained Sandhu.
Through her work, Sandhu is also choosing to what extent she decides to let her audiences in. She is working on a new set of drawings and will continue to explore women’s sexuality and empowerment in the future. Her artwork is her diary, the paper cut outs and pencils replacing the thousands of elusive words that would be required to speak on the complicated ideas that she depicts.
Sometimes it feels like we live in a world that never sleeps. Our globalized media works 24/7 and access to any electronic device gives you a window into an active world at any time of the day. “All-nighters” and getting less than six hours of sleep have become acceptable, especially in university, and especially in our age group.
It’s well documented that people don’t get as much sleep as they used to, or as much as they need. A survey in the States found that people sleep an average of 1.2 hours less than they used to, and it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate those findings to Canadians. Another survey found that some Americans get 40 percent less sleep than recommended. Last January, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced that lack of sleep is a public health epidemic.
Unfortunately, not much has been done to remedy this problem, and our cultural conversations around sleep often encourage lack of sleep. We are exposed to these ideas about sleep early on. I remember hearing the phrase “sleep is for the weak” all through high school. People would brag about staying up all night to finish assignments, or even just talk on MSN – a long-forgotten social messaging program and cultural artifact of the early internet.
And when I came to university, many students talked about the heavy demands of student life, which meant that you couldn’t have it all, whatever “all” means. People like to say that you can only have two of the three most important things in university – sleep, grades, or a social life. In other words, no matter how hard you try, you will always need to sacrifice something to succeed here. This disposition towards sleep is perpetuated by the conversations we have about how busy we are, how little we sleep, how good we are at sleeping so little and being so busy. It’s not hard to understand why people engage in this type of unhealthy discourse, but it’s a problem that can be fixed one conversation at a time. When your friend says that they’re running on three hours of sleep, don’t respond with a tone of approval. Regular lack of sleep can indicate an inability to manage your time, or might be an indicator of mental health issues. These are both problems that need to be addressed, not normalized.
Most people already know the adverse effects of lack of sleep. Your mom or dad has probably given you a long lecture on it. It can cause obvious things like fatigue, irritability and weight gain, and can get as serious as anxiety, depression, hypertension and diabetes.
There will be times when you just can’t get enough sleep, but don’t make a habit of it. Don’t neglect sleep because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do to succeed in university. If you need those seven to nine hours of regular sleep and don’t get them, you’re hurting yourself and those around you.
Photo Credit: REUTERS/Han Jae-Ho