Two long weeks after The Silhouette released an article regarding the gaps within the McMaster Students Union sexual violence disclosure processes, MSU President Ikram Farah finally released a statement.
The statement, which reads as a rambling pat on the back, condemns sexual violence and commits to a systematic review of the Maroons and the MSU as a whole, something that two Maroons representatives brought forward when they suggested a full audit of the service back in September 2018.
In the fall, a regularly scheduled service audit was conducted in which Maroons representatives made it known that an additional reporting tool would be useful. They also noted that the MSU’s workplace policy on harassment, discrimination and sexual violence should be more survivor-centric.
In response, the MSU vice president (Administration), Kristina Epifano, developed an online reporting tool and reportedly consulted with volunteers, staff and experts to update the workplace policy. But once released, it was discovered that this online reporting tool was not nearly as thorough or inclusive as the Maroons representatives had hoped.
Additionally, there is no evidence that the board of directors made any effort to lay the groundwork for investigation of sexual assault within the Maroons.
These Maroons representatives spent six months advocating for a full service review of the Maroons that focused on sexual assault. It was only when they made a public report to The Silhouette that the MSU president pledged to begin investigating sexual assault within the service.
Farah’s statement comes two weeks too late and six months after the fact that the two Maroons representatives reported the culture of sexual assault within the Maroons to Epifano.
The fact is that over the course of the two weeks following release of our article, the Maroons were actively hiring new representatives and ignoring the calls to action from the McMaster community.
Though Farah stated that Maroons events will be suspended for the time being while the review is underway, it is unclear whether the Maroons will be involved in Welcome Week this fall.
There’s a lot to say about the statement. We could mention that within the statement, Farah makes a note that she personally has not found any “actual reports” of sexual violence within the Maroons team this year. While she does acknowledge that the lack of reporting does not mean that harassment or assault hasn’t occurred, this tangent is absolutely unnecessary and self-praising.
What’s more is Farah’s claim that the MSU’s “practices and disclosure protocols are exemplary of the sector.”
What does exemplary mean if the practices and disclosure policies have not been consistent, thorough nor inclusive before these past few months? In what way is taking two weeks to release a statement regarding the matter exemplary?
Within the MSU, the lines between personal and professional are constantly blurred. Given that the MSU has consistently protected individuals accused of sexual assault, it is no surprise that survivors may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual assault.
Whether the perpetrator was a member of the Student Representative Assembly or a presidential candidate, the MSU has continuously failed to support survivors.
This is indicative of a larger issue within the MSU: there is no independent human resources department to respond to complaints and initiate reviews.
Maroons representatives spent six months advocating for change, and it took two weeks and dozens of community members, volunteers and MSU employees taking to social media to demand a response from the Maroons coordinator and have the MSU commit to a full service review.
In order to properly address sexual assault at a systemic level, the MSU needs to overhaul its sexual assault policy and oversight process.
The MSU has proven time and time again that it is poorly equipped to properly respond to sexual assault allegations. It is left entirely up to the board of directors to ensure that policies are upheld, but they are not trained or qualified to respond to issues of this magnitude.
The MSU needs an independent HR department to consistently and proactively address concerns so that students do not have to turn to public disclosure in order to initiate a review process.
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.
By: Jenna Tziatis, Marketing Assistant, McMaster University Continuing Education
In today’s tough job market a degree alone may not be enough to get you the job or promotion that you’re looking for. Employer expectations are higher and are expecting more than the knowledge that comes with a degree. They are also scrutinizing candidates based on their enhanced skill-sets and experience to ensure they are hiring someone who will fit and integrate into their business and culture with the least disruption.
Savvy students are realizing this trend and responding by upskilling themselves to ensure that they stand out in the employment crowd and that their resume rises to the top of the pile. If you’re thinking about getting ahead, McMaster Continuing Education offers a variety of learning options from diplomas and certificates to micro learning options. Whether your focus is in the field of business, health or professional development, there are many to choose from:
To make it easier for Mac students, McMaster Continuing Education offers a faster route to get you ahead with Degree + Diploma. This opportunity allows you to earn a diploma or certificate while you work toward your degree. You can use your elective credits in your current program of study toward a diploma or certificate with Continuing Education, allowing you to gain your qualifications faster. This opportunity is gaining popularity among Mac students and can be easily set up by contacting your Academic Advisor.
If you’re not ready to jump straight into getting a diploma or certificate you can always try one of McMaster Continuing Education professional development courses or attend our upcoming free Business Entrepreneur Series micro learning session that is running in spring. It’s a great way to gain valuable and recognized skills in a condensed learning format. To attend this series you can sign up at mcmastercce.ca/events/free-business-entrepreneurship-series
Regardless of what you decide, by recognizing the demands of today’s job market and being proactive to acquire the skills that businesses are looking for will make you more visible and appealing to employers. Continuing Education will give you that competitive edge to get ahead and land that job you’re looking for.
To learn more about these valuable learning options visit www.mcmastercce.ca
By: Evonne Syed
The topic of integrating artificial intelligence and robots into the workforce rouses the concern of anyone wishing to enter the job market, and the same goes for postsecondary students.
Fortunately, the future is optimistic for students as automation is not expected to prevent graduates from attaining their career goals.
In fact, the rise of automation actually improves career prospects for university graduates, as it is creating a new job market. Forbes Magazine reports that artificial intelligence is predicted to create 58 million jobs as 2022 approaches.
As the popularity of automation systems and the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace becomes more widespread, there will be more and more people required to actually build and develop these systems.
This will open up opportunities for those who wish to enter the fields of robotics and information technology. BBC News anticipates the prominence of data analysts, social media specialists and software developers, as a result.
For this reason, while one may argue that automation has resulted in the elimination of certain jobs, the introduction of automation in the workforce is actually creating more jobs and opportunities in our current digital age.
Luckily, McMaster University has many programs to equip students with the necessary skills to flourish in our digital age. The recent construction of the Hatch Centre shows McMaster’s testament to students advancing in these fields.
Even if one is not interested in working in the field of automation, that does not mean that they are otherwise at risk of being unable to obtain a job. There is an increasing demand for “human skills” in the workforce since these skills are what distinguish robots from actual human beings.
University graduates tend to seek out careers that require a higher level of education which simply cannot be programmed into automation systems. It would be way too costly and time consuming to teach a robot the knowledge a person has acquired from their post-secondary education.
There are also plenty of skills, academic and otherwise, that students learn and develop through their time at university. Education and experiential opportunities prepare students to apply their knowledge in a variety of situations.
For example, critical thinking skills and problem solving are transferable “soft skills” that employers seek and students develop during their time at university.
Some jobs require humanistic qualities, which are simply not possible for a machine to replicate. For instance, no matter how much technology advances, robots may never be capable of understanding human emotions and experiences.
The interpersonal skills, empathy and compassion that people develop by interacting with one another are skills that are beneficial for the work environment. These skills equip anyone to thrive professionally as the future of the job outlook changes.
Technological advancements such as automation will inevitably impact life as we know it, and that includes changing our work environments. However, these changes are not inherently harmful and the possibilities for post-secondary graduates remain promising.
Students must be proactive, take initiative to educate themselves as much as possible and work on developing these skills. Provided that students make the most of their university experience, and are willing to undergo some extra training to keep their learning sharp, robots are sure to have nothing on them.
On Feb. 20, the McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice and the McMaster Muslim Students Association sent a letter to Canadian ministers Chrystia Freeland and Ralph Goodalech, asking the government to investigate the Chinese government’s role in directing students to silence human rights activists on campus.
The letter follows an event organized by MMPJ and McMaster MSA on Feb. 11 where Rukiye Turdush, a Uighur Muslim activist, spoke about the Chinese internment of Uighur Muslims.
According to the Washington Post, a group of students created a WeChat group chat to oppose the event.
During the event, a student filmed Turdush and cursed at her. After the talk, the students say that they contacted the Chinese Embassy in Canada, which directed them to investigate whether university officials or Chinese students attended the event.
A few days later, five Chinese student groups, including the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, released a statement condemning the event and stating they contacted the Chinese consulate in Toronto.
The internment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China has been confirmed by multiple news outlets and the international community.
Approximately one million Uighur Muslims have been detained by the Chinese government, according to the British government.
The Chinese government has denied any wrongdoing, suggesting the camps are constructed for counter-terrorism purposes.
On Feb 16, the Chinese Embassy released a statement defending the actions of the Chinese students on the principle of free speech and dismissing any accusations of misconduct as ‘groundless accusations’ and ‘anti-China sentiment.’
Representatives from McMaster MSA and MMPJ say this is not a free speech issue.
“I do not think this was ever a conversation about freedom of speech. I think it always has been a conversation about human rights violation and speaking up against that,” said representatives from the McMaster MSA and MMPJ. “It’s blatantly obvious that the government is supporting these attempts to quell discussion about these human rights violations.”
The CSSA did not respond to multiple emails from The Silhouette about the situation.
McMaster MSA and MMPJ said the government acknowledged their letter but has yet to engage in any formal action on the matter.
“It’s important that we help people understand the university’s commitment to free speech and to the sharing of views and opinions, even those that might be controversial,” said Gord Arbeau, McMaster’s director of communications.
It is worth noting that these events come amid growing concerns about Chinese government involvement in Canadian universities to oppose any criticism against the Chinese Communist Party.
Following the protest at Turdush’s talk, an unnamed McMaster student created a Change.org petition in hopes of removing the CSSA from the MSU. As of March 2, the petition has amassed 461 signatures.
McMaster MSA and MMPJ said they did not start the petition.
“We definitely have mixed feelings about this petition simply because I think we somewhat recognize that these students these Chinese students are also victims of surveillance and they are victims of a form of control,” McMaster MSA and MMPJ representatives said. “It has never been a priority for either of our organizations to go and attack them, to take revenge.”
The MSU clubs department is aware of the situation but will not take any action without instruction from the government and/or university administration.
"As the clubs department is not a formal investigative body, its governing policies state clearly that any punitive action taken towards a club or individuals inside a club are done so after federal, provincial, municipal and/or University judicial bodies (as appropriate) render opinion and/or action. Therefore, the Department would certainly act on the advice of investigative professionals in this matter," said Josephine Liauw, the MSU clubs department administrator.
This article was clarified on March 12, 2019 to include a direct quotation from Liauw.
Over the last two years, Halima Al-Hatimy, a former McMaster University public health grad student, has launched multiple Ontario human rights complaints against McMaster and Hamilton Health Sciences.
She also has legal proceedings against McMaster officials Patrick Deane, Wanda McKenna, Sarah Dickson, Glenn De Caire, Joseph Zubek and constables Tyler Rogers and Peter Broz.
Al-Hatimy’s issues with the university first materialized in 2017, before her anticipated departure to Ghana with “Waters Without Borders,” a program facilitated through a partnership between McMaster and the United Nations University.
The day before Al-Hatimy was expected to leave, the university informed her that she had been taken out of the program’s trip as a result of her presumed plan to bring medicinal marijuana overseas.
Thirteen days later, Al-Hatimy filed a human rights complaint against McMaster and the UNU.
“The administration asked me to sign an affidavit saying that I wouldn’t take medicinal cannabis with me illegally. It was riddled with criminalizing language, telling me that I had to promise I wasn’t going to traffic, import, export or illegally purchase illicit drugs or substances. I was traumatized by the experience,” she said.
Al-Hatimy is firmly convinced the university discriminated against her on the basis of “race, age, disability and use of medicinal cannabis.”
Thus far into the proceedings, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has affirmed Sarah Dickson’s involvement in the case but cut out the UNU and David Wilkinson, McMaster provost and vice-president (Academic).
Al-Hatimy said the university has been “extremely aggressive and uncooperative” over the past year.
In particular, according to Al-Hatimy, McMaster’s campus-wide smoking ban instituted in 2017 directly tore away her demand that the university construct a medical cannabis policy to protect users on campus.
Since launching her complaint, Al-Hatimy also filed for reprisal and organized two anti-smoking ban protests, one off-campus and the other in the Health Sciences Building.
“Both times, I was racially carded. The police showed up and walked straight to me. The guy beside me was white and smoking his medical cannabis. At the time, they didn’t know he was a licensed user. They just saw an older man and a younger student with a megaphone. You’d think they’d card him first, but they carded me,” she said.
When walking in the McMaster University Student Centre on another occasion, she said she was harassed by Joseph Zubek, the senior manager of McMaster security services.
“He showed me pictures that he had of me on his phone. He said they started an investigative police file on me,” she said.
In addition to lodging human rights complaints, Al-Hatimy has launched an application for reprisal for three counts of racial profiling, intimidation and harassment.
Upon entering the impending proceedings, Al-Hatimy said she feels hopeful.
“I have a strong case, I have evidence in my favour. I have witnesses. I’ve connected with other students who have also been bullied by the university and I have evidence of their stories that I’ll be presenting to the tribunal,” she said.
Gord Arbeau, the communications director at McMaster University, told the Silhouette that McMaster is committed to being inclusive, respectful and harassment-free.
“The university’s policies and procedures support this commitment, including providing medical accommodations to members of the community,” said Arbeau, on behalf of the university’s respondents in the proceedings.
On March 29, Al-Hatimy and McMaster officials will attend a case management conference that will consolidate her applications. From there, cases will be combined and a hearing will be scheduled.
By: Abirami Sudharshan
In October 2018, the McMaster faculty of health sciences launched the “Centre for Metabolism, Obesity and Diabetes Research,” an initiative ten years in the making.
Since then, the centre has been working to engineer novel clinical applications in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of adult and juvenile metabolic disease.
According to the agenda from the Oct. 18 McMaster board of governors meeting, 25 per cent of adults in Canada and around the world are affected by obesity, type two diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Every year, the Canadian health care system incurs more than $30 billion per year in incurred related costs.
The founding of the MODR centre, which was approved by the senate in April 2018, allows for the accelerated progression of pre-clinical to human research.
This is largely made possible through the MODR’s collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to metabolic research, according to a report in the Oct. 18 board of governors agenda.
“The MODR brings together a rich and diverse group of researchers from across McMaster University… with expertise ranging from cellular metabolism, physiology, clinical epidemiology, population health, pediatrics, adult medicine and clinical trials… who share a passion for collaborating and sharing insights and perspectives,” said Hertzel Gerstein, the centre’s senior advisor at the McMaster faculty of medicine.
Co-directors Katherine Morrison and Gregory Steinberg are studying these diseases at the clinical and cellular level, respectively.
Under their guidance, the centre is set to flourish as a world expert in determining the biological drivers behind metabolism disruption, understanding their mechanics and translating this knowledge into feasible, effective and clinical solutions.
“Ten years from now, we hope to have made a significant impact on the lives of people living with metabolic diseases by having developed new therapies,” said Steinberg.
The MODR is currently facilitating a number of metabolism-related research projects.
One project Steinberg and Morrison are leading is the “Gene Environment Team on Brown/Beige Adipose Tissue” project, which aims to understand the underlying causes of obesity, type two diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
According to the project description, brown adipose tissue is essentially the body’s furnace, burning sugar and fat in the body.
“In individuals with obesity or T2D the ability to switch on BAT is compromised, but the reasons for this are not well understood,” reads a statement on the MODR’s website. “The GET_BAT team is examining how agricultural and food processing practices may regulate BAT metabolic activity, directly, or indirectly by altering the gut microbiome.”
The results from these studies are expected to help the researchers develop strategies to increase BAT activity and treat and prevent metabolic disease.
Another project underway, the “Baby & Mi and Baby & Pre-Mi Studies,” is investigating the impact of gut bacteria on long-term health.
In particular, the study will be one of the first in North America to explore factors that may alter the gut bacteria picked up in the first three years of life.
In another study, Steinberg will be testing new medicines that impact proteins in the liver and adipose tissue in effort to treat type two diabetes.
More information about the research being conducted at the MODR can be found at https://healthsci.mcmaster.ca/metabolism-research.
By: Saadia Shahid
How does a student get good grades? I know the most obvious answer being shouted out is “by studying, of course,” with some sarcastic replies of “watching Netflix” thrown in the mix. But what if I told you both those answers were correct?
A balance of socializing and studying, which can include watching Netflix, is necessary to achieve those highly sought-after grades.
Though our cognitive needs are met by virtue of being university students, it is our need for "love and belongingness" that is present on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Socializing is a basic human need. To become functioning members of the society, we must engage in leisure activities.
Yet, we almost never put time aside to socialize with our friends. Even when we do, studying takes precedence and ends up taking over the time we allocated for socializing.
This is often a result of procrastination. Whether it is procrastinating by scrolling through clickbait articles or watching videos, when we procrastinate, we take away time from both socializing and studying.
Procrastination is also looked down upon so badly. Rarely do we try to understand why the person might be engaging in procrastination. Procrastination is a sign of anxiety.
In my opinion, procrastination is often a hugely unrecognized sign, too. Besides anxiety, procrastinating habits have been linked to depression and low self-esteem.
If you find your friend procrastinating, don’t “leave them alone so they can study”. Study with them. If left alone, they may continue procrastinating for even longer, and worsen their mental health.
Some people do emphasize their preference for studying alone. In that case, make sure they’re okay and continually check on their progress and their mental health. In severe cases of anxiety, they may even lie about it.
As a perfectionist, I speak from experience. My habit of procrastination stemmed from being anxious about the imperfect outcome that might ensue. As a result, I took longer getting started on assignments with the thought that if I didn’t do well, I could justify it by telling myself that I didn’t have enough time.
So far this year, I have been doing better as I have come to terms with the non-existent nature of perfection. This is something creatives struggle with as well. Things like “is this good enough?”, “should I post this now?” and “I want to make this better” are examples of what goes through their minds on a regular basis.
So how do you achieve the grade you’ve been aiming for? Consistency is the answer. Being consistently diligent with your workflow will not just aid in improving your skills, but also get you your coveted grade. Doing well in a course is a long-term goal, and definitely doesn’t occur when you start an assignment a day before its due.
Procrastination also leads to long hours of isolation in the library behind laptop screens or a stack of books, taking away the satisfaction of “love and belongingness”, and according to Maslow, halting an individual’s growth.
So, the next time you find your friend procrastinating, ask them why, take them out to get them relaxed and help them get started on their studying. Mental health is no light issue.
I think I’m obsessed with the fragility of human relationships. I reflect upon past relationships and consider the future of my current relationships. I remember boys who held my hand during the short summer months. I remember long-forgotten friends who comforted me while I cried about something dumb. I remember teachers who wrote “keep writing” in my yearbook and schoolmates who made me laugh in the middle of the soccer field. I remember strangers sitting next to me on the bus, strangers whose faces and eyes and expressions I studied so carefully that they were not so strange when the bus came to my stop.
I think about the people who touched my life who I will probably never meet again. Or the people who once meant so much to me, who mean a little less every single day. I think it’s one of the tragedies of life – that we invest so much in one another, only to have it fall apart or fade away or suddenly not matter anymore. We find each other wonderful and fascinating and beautiful and incomprehensibly irreplaceable, but in only a matter of weeks and months and years – we move on. Sometimes we look back, but other times it’s too painful, or we simply don’t care to anymore. And we find new people, make new friendships, kiss other strangers and the cycle continues. Meet, fall in love, separate, forget, repeat.
This must be one of the most unforgiveable things about human nature. Perhaps it is an evolutionary fact of survival. We have to know how to move on. When a loved one dies, eventually we learn to move on – the human race could not exist otherwise, we would have died out centuries ago, it wouldn’t have taken long for every human on earth to experience loss. But I don’t think I’m talking about death. I’m talking about break-ups, failed friendships, random interactions, brief encounters – all those emotions we feel in those moments. Where do they all go when the people we experienced them with have gone? Does the love go with them? Or does it stay hidden inside both of us, a memory we’d rather keep somewhere under a dusty mass of years? Does it all just become a secret that we can’t even share with ourselves?
And the memories, the memories! Where do they go? How can our hearts hold so many memories that we leave untouched for so long, sometimes forever? I often wish that I could play all my memories like a never-ending reel, a film that I would watch for days and days, sobbing and laughing and experiencing them one more time. But what good would that do me? The ex-lovers who lifted my chin with two fingers and stared straight into my soul – what good could come from looking into those eyes again? The friends who made me laugh until a little bit of pee came out, why should I want to relive that laughter only to have it end more suddenly and coldly than before?
And then I have to ask myself, is this the fate of all relationships? Is anything forever? Is it something we have to accept when we enter into all forms of human contact? Do we have to tell ourselves, this will end someday? There will come a time that I mean nothing to you and you mean nothing to me, and it won’t even matter that we mean nothing to each other. Or maybe it will matter, but only to me. So dance with me anyway. Laugh with me anyway. Hold me, fuck me, inspire me, scare me, stay with me a little longer anyway.
Or do we have to find a way to believe that some relationships must be different? Some relationships must exist outside of this universe where people fall asleep beside each other and then rarely think of one another again. And that we have to resist those conditions that reality has handed to us (however deluded and unsafe it might be), those conditions that explicitly state that people die, change, make mistakes, have regrets and sometimes wake up one morning and feel differently for no apparent reason.