MSU Diversity Services and Incite Magazine collaborate on new zine

The McMaster Students Union Diversity Services and Incite Magazine have collaborated to start 2021 on a creative note with the launch of their newest publication, Soapbox.

Soapbox is a zine publication for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour folks to share their art with the rest of the McMaster University community. The main goal is to amplify the art and craftsmanship of BIPoC students through an exclusive, safe space for them to showcase their work.

Soapbox will be accepting submissions of art in many forms if it can be displayed digitally, such as visual art, poetry or a dance video.

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“This publication aims to create a platform where the voices, experiences and lives of BIPoC contributors are not only seen and heard but valued and prioritized,” reads an information document released by Diversity Services and Incite.

“This publication aims to create a platform where the voices, experiences and lives of BIPoC contributors are not only seen and heard but valued and prioritized".

Additionally, they highlighted the importance of this publication in increasing BIPoC representation within traditional media and social media, which tends to be from the lens of white folks.

“Fundamentally, I think the zine comes out of the fact that often art or creation feels like it needs to be monetized and needs to be done by a certain group or certain somebody with credentials or a background. Often students of color, especially Black and Indigenous students, are excluded from these narratives so we wanted to create a space to have them shine and have their creations be showcased as much as possible,” said Sara Tamjidi, director of MSU Diversity Services.

Another motivating factor for creating the zine was its potential to allow McMaster students to feel more connected with one another through the process of writing and sharing their work.

“It will give the opportunity to create a virtual community in the non-traditional setting of remote learning,” Tamjidi explained.

“It will give the opportunity to create a virtual community in the non-traditional setting of remote learning,” Tamjidi explained.

When asked about why the publication was named Soapbox, Tamjidi explained its historical significance of conventionally being a makeshift box or crate that individuals would use as a platform to stand up and share their views. They chose this name to signify a similar platform where BIPoC individuals can be seen and heard.

“We took that to say that students, especially BIPoC students, exist by creating, by being and are really protesting by creating an enabling soapbox for themselves in their communities,” said Tamjidi

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The theme of the publication is “existence as resistance.” With this theme, Soapbox hopes to highlight the ongoing systemic oppression that BIPoC folks face by further suggesting that their very existence is the best form of resistance against these barriers.

The deadline to submit pieces is Feb. 15, 2021, which can be completed through a Google form. Artists whose pieces are selected for publication will be offered a $20 cheque per piece as compensation for their hard work. Each artist can submit a maximum of five submissions.

While they have not yet decided how many pieces will be featured in the zine, Tamjidi explained that Diversity Services and Incite hope to feature the submissions in an alternative media format other than an electronic version.

They also hope to adapt Soapbox to different types of video submissions, such as dance, singing, or spoken word. They encourage all BIPoC students to submit, emphasizing that they are not looking for anything specific or following a certain model.

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Diversity Services and Incite hope that Soapbox will be able to create a foundation for future BIPoC students at McMaster by amplifying BIPoC voices on campus and increasing their representation in all spaces.

“I think what our [long-term] hope is with the zine is that we can create an alternative format for students to display their creativity and their artistic talents and to showcase students of colour as much as we possibly can,” said Tamjidi.

 

In light of recent discussions made by the Student Representative Assembly concerning the fate of Incite Magazine, talks of the supposed “death of print” have once again circulated campus.

Incite Magazine is McMaster University’s creative arts and writing publication featuring student work across a wide range of mediums. The magazine, which prints three times a year, is entirely student-led and student-funded, receiving $1.02 per student annually.

Recently, the Finance Committee of the SRA made the recommendation to send Incite Magazine to referendum to determine its budget. If passed, the referendum had the potential to reduce Incite’s budget byhalf, or even remove it altogether.  

When a university that arguably undervalues the arts proposes cutting funding from a magazine that serves as one of the few remaining spaces on campus for creatives, the student body should be alarmed. While the motion to send Incite Magazine to referendum failed to pass at the SRA meeting on Jan. 6, even the idea that the magazine could nix their print publications and simply “shift their operations to an online platform” has harmful implications.

It’s no secret that many publications are going digital. Just last year, Teen Vogue, a popular magazine among millennials, discontinued their print editions. As more publications shift towards an all-digital platform, advocates for print media must stand strong.

But if the content is the same online, why bother printing? Print publications are much more than their content — it’s the experience of reading a print magazine that holds value. Content is obviously important but elements of production including graphic designs and layouts add just as much value to the finished product as the content itself.

Studies have even shown that time after time, readers will continuously choose printed magazines over their digital counterparts. Unsurprisingly, after a transition to an entirely digital platform, those print readers aren’t transitioning with the publication. They’re just gone.

Consider where you’re reading this editorial. Chances are, you picked up a copy of The Silhouette offhand, flipped through the contents, and skimmed the articles that piqued your interest. As far as technology has advanced, this experience cannot be replicated online.

So no, print isn’t dead. Nor should it be. As an editor of both The Silhouette and Incite Magazine, I’ve witnessed firsthand the hard work and dedication put into creating print publications. It’s my hope that readers recognize the efforts put into each issue and stand in support of print publications.

 

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Watch the live-feed from the SRA meeting on Sept. 29. The bulk of bylaw 5 discussion begins at 40:35. For the full video feed, click here.

After a tumultuous week in the world of student politics, the question of ancillary student fees has been put on hold.

The proposed amendments to a McMaster Students Union bylaw which would see five student groups go to triennial review by referendum did not pass at the meeting of the Student Representative Assembly on Sept. 29.

The amendments, proposed by the Finance Committee under the leadership of Commissioner Daniel D’Angela and with the support of VP Finance Jeff Doucet, sought to bring greater financial transparency and accountability to the set of non-MSU, non-university administered groups.

Each of the affected groups was given an opportunity to voice their concerns at the meeting.

“We think there are better, more effective ways to bring conversations with students, and to create more meaningful conversations,” said Kathryn Chan, co-president of Engineers Without Borders, to those present. She explained that her organization was interested in transparency, though not through what they considered time-consuming referendums.

“We think that [the referendums] come at a cost of decreased quality in the work that we do,” Chan said.

Miranda Clayton, president of the McMaster Marching Band, echoed Chan’s sentiment.

“While the changes have good intentions, they ultimately harm the groups involved,” she said.

The McMaster Marching Band was granted a student levy to the amount of $0.90 per student for the 2013-2014 academic year after winning a referendum in January 2013.

Although each of the five groups opposed proposed bylaw framework, the discussion highlighted that issues with the amendments were rooted in the drafting process.

While the groups felt a referendum was taxing, Doucet and the Finance Committee believed such a model was best for maintaining group autonomy.

“All these groups are very different, so…it’s hard to come up with a solution,” he explained. “But one thing they all had in common was going to referendum to get student money.”

Lexi Sproule, co-president of EWB, felt that the perceived lack of consultation was a miscommunication between groups.

“It’s a pretty classic misunderstanding between people making strategy decisions and people on the ground.”

After nearly two hours of discussion, the decision was made to send the proposal back to the finance committee for a more thorough consultation process.

D’Angela explained that the Finance Committee has now asked for policy suggestions from each group on “how to improve students democratic input into the fee” and a period of consultation is expected to follow.

 

After paying tuition, many students may not know what happens to their money. But organizers within the McMaster Students Union are working to see that changed, and show students what happens to their fees.

The finance committee of the MSU has proposed changes to a bylaw that would see student groups have their levies put up to referendum on a regular basis. The bylaw in question deals specifically with the five non-MSU, non-university organizations that currently receive a portion of student funding.

“What this bylaw essentially does is give [students] more information on where their money is going,” said Daniel D’Angela, MSU Finance Commissioner and Social Science SRA representative.

The groups that fall under this category are Ontario Public Interest Research Group, McMaster, Engineers Without Borders, Incite Magazine, the McMaster Solar Car, and the McMaster Marching Band. The money these five groups collect from the student body amounts to $10.86 for each full-time student.

And despite the enthusiasm of key players within the MSU, the groups affected have come out in vocal opposition of the motion.

“It’s an inefficient way to consult students,” said Lexi Sproule, co-president of the McMaster chapter of Engineers Without Borders of the proposed system.

Under the changes, EWB and the other four organizations would have their levy put on the presidential ballot as a referendum for students to vote on every three years.

“It’s not very in-depth feedback,” said Sproule. “Even if you get approved, you don’t know if students have any issues with how you run things. It’s so much energy for feedback that’s kind of superficial.”

Proponents of the referendums disagree.

“I don’t think that once every three years having to spend two weeks going out and telling students about what you do, I don’t think it’s that taxing,” said Jeff Doucet,

EWB currently collects 37 cents from every full-time undergraduate student. While not making up their entire budget, the approximately $7700 it receives goes directly to funding students participating in the Junior Fellowship Program, a four-month volunteer placement overseas.

While the dollar amount per student is small, the effect the potential loss is on some of the organizations is significant.

“[Without the levy] I don’t think we’d be able to operate—that’s what keeps us going,” said Yuvreet Kaur, one of eight student board members of OPIRG McMaster.

OPIRG McMaster is one of a network of organizations across the province, which promotes social justice issues through grassroots organizing and through the funding of student and community-led working groups.

Of the five affected groups, OPIRG currently collects the largest fee, at $7.57 per student. However, the fee is refundable within three weeks of the drop and adds date in September.

“We give students the opportunity to take that money if they need it or if they don’t support the work we do,” explained Kojo Damptey, also on the OPIRG Board.

”We’re the only organization on campus that does that.”

The threat of OPIRG McMaster losing its funding is not unheard of; other OPIRG chapters across Ontario, including those at the University of Toronto and at Queen’s University, have come under scrutiny through NOPIRG campaigns, which aim to abolish the system of contributing student fees to the organization.

In the case of Queen’s, NOPIRG organizer Stuart Clark told the Queen’s Journal he was opposed to the levy because of “the use of publically available funds for certain activities that don’t reflect the values of the entire community.”

Mac’s chapter, however, feels that its values align very well with the university.

“Our current president [Patrick Deane] talked about forward with integrity—we’ve been doing that for two decades here,” said Damptey. He emphasized that the working groups funded by the group, which address a range of social justice issues, are the product of student ideas.

“There are certain working groups that a lot of the McMaster population is familiar with,” echoed Board Member Sabeen Kazmi. “Other groups…like the McMaster Farmstand and MACycle started under OPIRG.”

OPIRG and the other four organizations involved are seeking not only to make students and SRA members aware of their role on campus, but also to voice their opposition to the process of the bylaw changes being made.

Sam Godfrey, co-editor-in-chief of Incite Magazine, expressed her concern with the idea of a referendum to determine fees.

“It’s hard to measure worth…by whether the majority of students read [Incite]. If you only funded things that the majority wanted, you wouldn’t have the same kind of community at Mac.”

However, D’Angela said that his impression was that the groups were in support of amendments.

“I met with them midway through the summer, the fee holders, and overwhelmingly, I’d say they agreed with increasing with transparency,” he said.

Sproule explained that while EWB is completely supportive of financial transparency, no mention of the proposed changes was made.

“All we heard was ‘great job’…what are we supposed to do with that? If we’d heard they had concerns, we’d be happy to change things,” she explained.

The bylaw changes were made within the Finance Committee but did not involve any further consultation with the groups.The process of amendment also didn’t involve notifying the groups when the motion was set to go to the SRA for voting; a system that was met with concern by OPIRG, Incite, and EWB, but to others was not problematic.

“If the finance committee decides to make a change because they feel we need more democratic input, should they notify the groups in advance that they make their change, before it goes public? I’m not sure if that will change the conversation that much,” said Doucet.

The discussion on the proposed changes will continue at the upcoming SRA meeting, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 29.

Despite the opposition raised by the five groups, who are expected to present at the meeting, D’Angela and Doucet stand by the Finance Committee’s suggestion.

“If students want to have democratic input, referendum is the most efficient way to do so,” said Doucet.

“We think that the students are smart, they are intelligent people and they’re able to weigh the pros and cons of any single vote,” explained D’Angela upon being asked about the effectiveness of a referendum.

“We think that students are able to make decisions if you give them the right information and give them the important information.”

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