C/O Pasha Malla
The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.
Pasha Malla: My name is Pasha Malla. I’m the 2021-2022 Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer in Residence. I'm also teaching a class in [the arts and science department], a special inquiry class on speculative fiction.
What is your role as the Writer in Residence?
I'm available to the McMaster community and the broader Hamilton community via the Hamilton Public Library for manuscript consultations, which means that people send me excerpts of their work, poetry or prose and I read them and give them some feedback. Then we have a meeting on Zoom and have a little conversation about it. That's part of it. The other half of the program is various workshops and talks. Tonight, I have a workshop on suspense and urgency that I'm posting on Zoom. I'm doing the art of writing workshops through the Hamilton Public Library and business writing workshops through [McMaster University].
How have your meetings been so far?
I've been having the best time. Because the program includes people outside the [McMaster] community, regular old folks from wherever can join as long as they're affiliated with Hamilton in some way. It's been a really nice and diverse group of people and quite a nice variety of kinds of writing that folks are doing. It's been really encouraging and inspiring and kind of fun to read for people and have conversations with folks who are at various stages in their writing. I'm working with some published writers and some new writers. It has been really enjoyable in all kinds of ways.
What inspires you to write?
Lots of different things. Writing has been a nice place to just experience a little bit of joy. I've been working on this project that just makes me laugh and I have fun working on. Each project has its own goals and intentions or whatever else and results.
Do you mind elaborating on the project?
It's actually a sequel to the last novel I had out which is called Kill The Mall. It's an absurdist story with supernatural elements. This is a sequel to that, it's actually the second book in what I think is probably going to be a trilogy and I'm going to finish it before reading week, probably.
Are there any people or another writer who inspires you in writing?
There are so many writers whose work I read who are just so far beyond what I'm doing. I find that trying to achieve things that other writers are doing is motivating. Most recently, I've been reading a writer from Argentina whose name is Juan José Saer. I'm just blown away by this guy's genius. Reading something like that makes me, as a writer, try to pick it apart and see how he's doing what he's doing. So yeah, I get inspired by reading a lot.
Have you encountered any challenges in your own writing or within the Writers in Residence program?
No, this program has been terrific. That's a testament to how great the people who are sending their work in, who I've been meeting with and [who] have been attending these workshops with [all] are. That's the reason why I did it. If there's any challenge, it's just seeing each piece to try to figure out what the writer is trying to do and then doing my best to help them get there. Giving different suggestions and feedback that will be, I hope, encouraging and motivating but at the same time rigorous constructive criticism.
Is there anything you would like to say to aspiring writers?
Go into engineering school so you can get a job. No, I'm just being facetious. I think there's all kinds of generic advice already. You know, you should read, you should write. For me, I think being a curious person in the world is the most important thing. To ask questions, to speculate, to wonder. To tap into that thing we all had when we were kids where there's so much imagination and possibility is a large part of who you are and how you engage with the world. I think that is more important than figuring out the craft. Really being curious, engaging in curiosity about other people, about places, about experiences, about yourself.
Hamilton Public Library’s virtual programming is supporting the community and helping them stay connected
Community is a crucial component of well-being. It is also something that many are missing as traditional gatherings such as city-wide events have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Libraries have long since been gathering places for communities but due to the pandemic, many closed for months. While nothing will likely be able to replace this missing connection, libraries have found ways to adapt and forge new kinds of connections.
The Hamilton Public Library has created new avenues for connection while still maintaining the high quality and range associated with their traditional programming. In mid-March, shortly after the first pandemic closures, HPL transitioned its programs to a virtual environment, initially using Microsoft Teams. Since then, they have expanded to YouTube and Hamilton TV channel Cable 14. They have also added a number of new programs in light of the pandemic, such as a learning database, job search events and social events like Poems from Home.
So far, HPL’s virtual programs have been very successful, with many of their livestreamed events continuing to get views weeks after they’re released. Their online platforms, such as Cisco Academy and Mango, have seen dramatic increases in use since the pandemic closures.
HPL serves not just those who live in Hamilton but those who work and learn in the city as well. They want to ensure that all members of the community, whether or not they are able to come to Hamilton now, still feel connected and supported. Community is very much top of mind for Lisa Radha Weaver, the director of collections and program development at HPL, as well as the rest of the HPL’s program team.
“I really hope that all HPL library members are able to walk away with the thing that they were looking for. So, if they were looking for social interaction with a sit and stretch, or a book club conversation, I hope that they got that engagement, especially if they've been isolated since March. I hope the people who are logging on to our Cisco Academy and are hoping to apply for that dream job are able to have the confidence . . . [to] have a successful interview and for any member who is looking for something and isn't able to necessarily find it on our website. I hope that they're going to call [in] to Ask HPL or email us and let us know that they're looking for this kind of programming,” said Weaver.
“I really hope that all HPL library members are able to walk away with the thing that they were looking for. So, if they were looking for social interaction with a sit and stretch, or a book club conversation, I hope that they got that engagement, especially if they've been isolated since March..." said Weaver.
All their programs can be accessed with an HPL library card. If community members do not have a card as of yet, they are able to register for one through the HPL website. Weaver especially encourages students to get a library card if they do not already have one, as this is a way by which they can connect with the Hamilton community during a time when they may feel particularly isolated. Even if they are not living in Hamilton currently but still attending university virtually, students are eligible for an HPL card.
Many of their programs featuring local musicians and authors can offer students a glimpse into the culture and history of the city they’re studying in. Other programs, such as book clubs, knitting circles and music circles can help students connect with the larger Hamilton community. Additionally, the library’s many online learning platforms can offer students support through various tutoring, language learning, computer coding and other skill programs.
“We really do appreciate being part of the McMaster community and are happy to support, just as McMaster libraries are, all . . . student learners and instructors at McMaster . . . [W]e look forward to engaging with all the students, especially the new students at Mac this year who we haven't been able to meet in person yet . . . We look forward to meeting them online and supporting them throughout this academic year,” said Weaver.
“We really do appreciate being part of the McMaster community and are happy to support, just as McMaster libraries are, all . . . student learners and instructors at McMaster . . ." said Weaver.
HPL has faced some challenges, the chief one being accessibility. Many people rely on libraries for computer and internet access. Currently, some branches are open for restricted hours and computers can be accessed then. However, many of the virtual programs they offer take place after hours and if community members do not have a device and stable internet access at home, they cannot access these events.
One of the challenges that HPL has been able to surmount is the number of community members who were not online or comfortable navigating the virtual environment before this pandemic. Through the Ask HPL service on their website, they have been able to help many of these people transition online.
“So there are book clubs that have been meeting for decades in person, and transitioning them online for some people has been a challenge, whether it's a device challenge or a software challenge but again, with our amazing Ask HPL service . . . we've been able to help members transition to those services online. We look at every challenge as an opportunity and we're fortunate that we've had the staff capacity and community interest in addressing those challenges and helping people stay engaged with the library,” explained Weaver.
Libraries have always been places for people to gather and feel connected, held and supported. So it is fitting that HPL are among those fostering a digital sense of community during these trying times.
This article has been edited as of Feb. 27, 2020
A previously published version of this article stated that Giroux phoned his daughter to ask about Casablancas. This has been corrected to state that he asked his son.
This article is part one of a two part series. Read part two here.
The latter half of the 2010 decade brought with it the rise of various right-winged movements throughout the world. Henry Giroux, a McMaster professor in the department of English and cultural studies, felt a sense of urgency; that the public needed to be educated in order to advance our democracy and combat the right side of politics. We recently had the chance to catch up with Giroux after he published his newest book, The Terror of the Unforeseen, which includes a forward by Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes.
INTRODUCTION TO CASABLANCAS:
In 2016, Giroux received a phone call from an agent asking if he knew who Julian Casablancas was, to which he responded, “No, I don’t”. He then phoned his son to ask who the mysterious rock star was.
Casablancas brought a film crew to Giroux’s Hamilton home and interviewed the professor about his work. This was the start of the duo’s friendship. Giroux then asked Casablancas if he wanted to write a forward in The Terror of the Unforeseen to open up his narrative to a much-wider audience.
After the forward was written, Casablancas interviewed Giroux in front of a live audience at a McMaster Library event at The Westdale Theatre (1014 King St. W.) on Oct. 24, 2019. The event was entitled “The Looming Threat of Fascist Politics”.
Giroux was born in Providence, Rhode Island, living in a working-class neighbourhood. He obtained a basketball scholarship from the University of Southern Maine and graduated from the university to become a high school teacher. He received a scholarship to complete his schooling at Carnegie-Mellon University, graduating with a PhD in 1977.
After becoming a professor at Boston University, Giroux began researching what education looks like at universities; what does it mean to get a university education?
In 1981, Giroux’s research inspired his second book, Theory and Resistance in Education: a Pedagogy for the Opposition. In Theory and Resistance, he defends that education has become a privatized endeavour that does not prioritizes the public’s best interests, including the interests of students. This privatization has become apparent through the promotion of maths and sciences, and the undermining of social and behavioural teachings. Giroux concludes that universities are no longer producing public intellectuals, people who think and reason critically, with the absence of humanities and social sciences.
When Giroux went up for tenure at Boston University, everyone but the president of the University wanted to give him the teaching position.
“[The president] was the east coast equivalent of Ronald Reagan, and a really ruthless guy.. he was denying tenure to everybody on the left [side of the political spectrum],” said Giroux.
Giroux moved to Miami University where he started the first cultural studies centre in the United States. He was then offered an endowed chair at Pennsylvania State University. When the opportunity came to apply to McMaster University, Giroux leapt at the offer and was hired in 2004.
THE TERROR OF THE UNFORESEEN:
Casablancas joined Giroux’s project because he saw the value in Giroux’s ideology.
“The idea for the book came out of a certain sense of incredible urgency . . . motivated by the election of Donald Trump and the rise of right-winged movements throughout the world,” said Giroux.
The author coined the term “neoliberal fascism”: a cross between racist ideology and a ruling financial elite class that disregards lower classes. This term is the basis of Giroux’s book, which describes how neoliberal fascism affects universities and media, along with how it has contributed to the creation of alt-right culture.
“I tried to take seriously the notion that politics follows culture, meaning that, you can’t really talk about politics unless you talk about the way in which people are experiencing their everyday lives and the problems that confront them,” said Giroux.
He believes that fascism never goes away, that it will always manifest itself in some context. Giroux used the U.S. as an example. The wealth and power held by the governing financial elite has created a state that does not care about the inequalities faced by most of its citizens.
Giroux links the above issues to the war on youth that much of his work has focused on, with the belief that youth are a long-term investment that are being written out of democracy.
Giroux sees elements of youth being written out of democracy on our own campus. He also recognized that neoliberal ideology could have been a contributing cause to the province’s financial cuts to universities.
“The [ideal] model for education is now patterned after a business culture and with that, it seems to me, comes with an enormous set of dangers and anxieties,” stated Giroux.
According to Giroux, universities used to operate as public good; however, this is no longer their priority. Instead, universities are constantly worried about their bottom line, due in part to neoliberalism. This is especially evident in the elimination of or lack of funding for programs and courses that bring in less money for universities. Giroux cites the example of liberal arts education, which he believes is vital for every student to obtain. He believes this field teaches students a general understanding of our interactions with the world and how to become a socially responsible citizen; however, Giroux believes that liberal arts are being neglected in favour of teaching science and math.
While he understands that universities run deficits, this need to meet the bottom line can open the door for them to become influenced to opt-in to privatization and corporate influence. Giroux believes the only type of influence major corporations should have on campus are in the forms of sponsorships to allow the university to carry out its business as students are neither clients nor products.
“We have an obligation as educators, not to prepare students for just the work, but to prepare them for the world and what it means.”
When asked about the Ford government’s stance on OSAP cuts, Giroux believes that the government has a limited notion of investment, likely stemming from neoliberalist ideals.
“You don’t invest in students, for them to return profits . . . you invest in students and do everything you can to make sure that they can distinguish between meaningful work and meaningless work; that they can have some vision of the future that’s rooted in democratic values, that has some sense of compassion for what it means to live in a world in which we’re completely interdependent.
The Terror of the Unforeseen is the 71st book by Henry Giroux.
“I write because I believe that writing matters, I believe that elevating ideas into the public realm may help change the way people view the world,” said Giroux.
Stay tuned for part two of this series featuring our interview with Julian Casablancas.
A year ago, a magical supply shop filled to the brim with tarot cards, spell supplies and a general sense of wonder was born. The Witch’s Fix (6 John St. N.) is a small slice of the arcane set against the backdrop of John Street. The inside of the shop is cozy and inviting, with fairy lights dotting exposed-brick walls, and every table piled high with unexpected curios. A small room at the back hosts tarot, oracle and tea leaf readings, for those interested in seeing into their future.
The shop is run entirely by the owner, Lauren Campbell. For the past year, Campbell has been challenging the culture around magic and witchcraft.
“I love traditional witchy shops, but I also go into them, sometimes I feel a little bit overwhelmed or I feel silly asking questions. I feel like there's a lot of places that there's just a sense that you already need to know your stuff before you go in. I really wanted to create a space that was more encouraging to people just starting out, and fun and I want people to . . . ask questions and be curious and feel a little bit childlike. And really, it was just about creating an accessible, safe space to come explore the unknown,” said Campbell.
Campbell says that her store is popular with students; they frequently visit the shop to spend some time with their friends. Many of them come in search of information and guidance on their future and the choices they should make while they’re away from home. Campbell says that she didn’t know what to expect when she opened the shop.
“I didn't do all the things you're supposed to do when you open a business because I was just following my gut, and it could have easily been a total failure … It was sort of like that Field of Dreams ‘If you build it, they will come’ thing. All these people came out of the woodwork that were so enthusiastic about it. And, you know, it's now as much a part of them as it is me, and it's just become so much bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Campbell.
Hamilton has an ever-increasing number of small, independent businesses. James Street, Locke Street and Ottawa Street are well-known destinations for local shopping. However, with rent in the city on the rise, it can be difficult for small businesses to stay open. For example, art galleries are struggling to keep their doors open on James Street. Stores are opening and closing all the time, and even the iconic Hamilton favourite O’s Clothes, a store that has been on James for 8 years, has had to close its doors.
“We’re lucky in Hamilton that so many people in the community are committed to shopping local, and I’ve been fortunate to experience a warm welcoming from customers who are eager to support my shop. I definitely worry about when the time comes to renew my lease, as with so much development happening downtown so quickly, rent is bound to go up. I’m hoping it’s a manageable number, but if it isn’t, I’ll have to figure out what will become of my business at that time,” said Campbell.
As popular and successful as The Witch’s Fix is, there is always a chance that rent will rise too high to continue running the store. However, Campbell remains optimistic, and is looking forward to what the next year has in store.
“It’s disheartening to see other small business owners closing their doors as a result of high rent, but unless you own your own commercial building, it’s always a possibility that lingers over the horizon. I don’t think people realize how much product you have to sell, as a retail store, to simply break even each month. It can be challenging, but so far I’ve been enjoying the process of learning how to run a business,” said Campbell.
Campbell has plans to continue expanding the number of workshops and events that she offers, allowing even more people to become involved with the shop.
The Witch’s Fix is a shining example of how a business that has stayed strong despite the odds. The shop is a cozy, welcoming meeting place that’s open to everyone, regardless of their level of experience. Whatever is in store for the store, it’s sure to be magical.
How a librarians’ union helped communicate municipal politics online
Over the summer of 2019, an unlikely McMaster-affiliated Twitter account garnered an online following at the height of municipal conflict.
As tensions peaked around the police and the city's response to attacks at the 2019 Pride celebration, an unexpected source pierced the flurry of commentary.
The McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association, a certified bargaining agent for academic librarians, provided sharp analysis of the Pride events through its Twitter account.
Tweets ranged from public information to scathing critique, but all provided context to the collective confusion and anger around the city’s failure to protect Pride attendees and the subsequent inaction from city officials.
The Association’s critical analysis provided an alternative to divisiveness while city officials and people were listening. Retweets and likes reached hundreds as calls to action were echoed through the Twittersphere.
Not the disembodied voice of the library, but rather a collective call to action.
According to Myron Groover and Abeer Siddiqui, the president and vice-president of MUALA, respectively, libraries have long been places for activism.
The union was formed nearly ten years ago by just over two dozen librarians across McMaster’s campus. The union has since grown to around 30 members. Still, they remain a relatively tiny bargaining collective compared to the university’s giant administrative apparatus.
One of the few unions in Canada with a membership solely of librarians in the country, MUALA provides a unique space for librarianship and politics to meet. Its members come from different communities in Hamilton and all have individual stakes in political conversations. Not only are they union members or professional librarians, they are first and foremost members of the community with unique identities.
Groover sees union members as having professional skills that lend themselves well to political organizing, while still fundamentally being community members who have a stake in municipal politics.
“We also have members who are affected by the discourse around queer people and racialized people in Hamilton. It’s not just that we’re trying to do something benevolent from afar for the community, these are issues that touch our members’ lives as well.”
Groover also sees similarities between the philosophy of public librarianship and the organizing work of the union.
“I don’t see a tension between the work we do in the union to support the people that live in this community with us and the work we do professionally to support students on this campus and the broader public to whom we answer. Those are different functions but they complement one another,” said Groover.
Public and academic libraries are central to the communities in which they reside. In Hamilton, public libraries offer social services and support. At McMaster, the academic librarians are dedicated to the well-being and scholarship of students and staff. But beyond that, libraries are one of the few open spaces. There is no entry fee to a library, there is no time limit and there is no cost for its services. This is rare in our contemporary moment, where the drive towards privatization seems inescapable.
If libraries are truly to be public spaces, then the politics of communities in which they are situated are necessarily a part of the work that they do.
“If we think of ourselves as community spaces and as public spaces … politics doesn’t stop at the library doors. People’s lives don’t stop at the library doors.”
While librarianship is founded on the principle that information should be accessible to all, this is a complicated task. Libraries do not exist as apolitical places, and sometimes they themselves can create or perpetuate harm in the communities they serve. Just like any field, they are imperfect institutions, certainly not above criticism.
Siddiqui explains this complexity.
“A lot of times librarianship, especially in the context of archives, a lot of that history was kept by people with privilege for people with privilege,” said Siddiqui.
It is the task of librarians today to recognize this history and work against it. Yet, some libraries take the opposite approach.
The Toronto Public Library recently came under fire for renting out a space to a third party event feature a speaker who opposes transgender rights. Some support the premise but not the message, saying free speech should come first.
Despite accusations of hate speech, Vickery Bowles, the city librarian for the Toronto Public Library, held firm in their decision to let the event organizers rent the space in an interview with the CBC. Bowles said that the library is committed to its democratic values and offering a safe space for everyone, including trans community members, although actions say otherwise.
There is a tension in the field of librarianship over how to facilitate public, safe spaces. While our neighbours in Toronto have been criticized for being removed from the political realities of their community, McMaster might model an alternative.
Of course MUALA represents academic, not public, librarians, but the purpose of these institutions are still largely the same. The contrast between the Toronto library and MUALA is stark.
In June when Cedar Hopperton, a transgender activist and anarchist, was arrested, MUALA weighed in and supported Hopperton on the grounds of free speech
It is easy for libraries to forget their political roots, but MUALA works to remember them.
“Well I think for one its absolutely the right thing to do . . . but I will also say that part of union work is that one day we will absolutely be seeking solidarity from our community members as well, and it would be foolish of us to expect that without ever providing some of our own,” says Siddiqui.
Using Twitter as a tool for solidarity, the librarian’s union shows one way of thinking about collective action for the future. The union provided analysis of an important issue for their community, while also working to ensure equitable working conditions for themselves. Not just altruistism, MUALA shows that union work can rally entire communities for collective action. Librarians are knowledge preservers, working to inform the public in 140 characters. With topical tweets, memeing and more, MUALA is where cyberspace meets labour organizing.
With tuition and living costs on the rise, obtaining a post-secondary education can be extremely costly. One of the higher costs of education are textbook fees; a first year life sciences student can expect to pay $825.15 in new textbooks.
To reduce the overall cost and increase the accessibility of post-secondary education, open educational resources were created.
OERs are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. They can be freely used, shared or adapted by anyone.
There are many benefits of open education. For students, the use of OERs can alleviate the stresses associated with exorbitant textbook costs.
In addition to cost-saving benefits, there are correlations between the use of OERs and higher grades, and the use of OERS and lower course withdrawal rates. Even more, accessible OERs can remove barriers for students with print disabilities.
The use of OERs also avoids the problems characteristic of traditional textbooks. Problems such as bundled content, use of access codes that control and limit access to material and the assignment of “updated” textbook editions made for the sole purpose of profit generation are resolved by the use of OERs.
With all the benefits, it begs the question why hasn’t McMaster University done more to push for OERs?
Recently, McMaster professor Catherine Anderson created the first open-access linguistics textbook with support from the university and a $15,000 grant from eCampusOntario’s open textbook initiative. While this is a great accomplishment, Anderson’s textbook is not enough to create open education on campus.
The McMaster Students Union has advocated for OERs in the past. Last year, they ran the #TextbookBroke campaign with the support of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. This campaign aimed to encourage instructors to adopt OERs in efforts to address textbook affordability.
The 2018 McMaster University budget submission form also recommends that the university invest $50,000 to support professors in adopting or creating OERs that are specific to McMaster courses.
The document contains many suggestions for the university, moved forward by the MSU. However, in light of the recent changes to post-secondary education funding made by the Ford government, it is unclear if any of the MSU’s recommendations, let alone a $50,000 fund for OERs, will materialize.
But beyond advocacy efforts by the MSU, the university has yet to provide legitimate support for open education. According to Olga Perkovic, co-chair of the McMaster OER committee, the committee’s workings are not supported financially or with policy.
This is in contrast with Queen’s University, who are at the forefront of open education in Ontario. The OER committee at Queen’s is a top-down movement, that is, their provost specifically made open education a priority, which involved providing financial and infrastructural support.
According to the MSU budget submission, other Canadian universities including the University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary have thousands of dollars in funding allocated for OERs.
McMaster ought to follow suit and prioritize open education for its students. To do so would mean to commit dedicated funds alongside time and efforts to ensure faculty members have the capacity to implement OERs in the classroom.
In the meantime, instructors can help support the open movement by using open materials in their courses whenever it is possible. There are many available collections of OERs for instructors to use. For example, the non-profit organization eCampusOntario hosts a provincially-funded open textbook library that carries hundreds of textbooks and other educational resources from a variety of disciplines.
Students can also support the open movement through discussing implementation of OERs with their instructors, uploading and encouraging their peers to upload their research onto McMaster’s institutional repository MacSphere and contacting the committee to recommend a president to ensure open education is a priority of the incoming president.
To stay up to date on the happenings of McMaster’s OER committee, the group’s meeting minutes are publicly available through McMaster LibGuides.
By: Drew Simpson
On Feb. 26, the Green is not White environmental racism workshop took place at the Hamilton Public Library’s Wentworth room. The free, open-to all workshop, garnered intrigue from attendees interested in learning about environmental racism.
Presenters sat on a raised platform and the room was filled with chart easel pads, activist posters and resources. The Green is Not White workshop, which is organized by Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion started its seven-hour agenda with a land acknowledgement, icebreakers and then laid down foundational knowledge.
Environmental racism is originally defined by Prof. Benjamin Chavis as the racial discrimination and unequal enforcement of environmental policies. The types of environmental racism have expanded since this 1987 definition and currently encompass air pollution, clean water, climate migration, extreme weather, food production, gentrification and toxins in the community and workplace.
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="237" gal_title="Green is not white 1"]
The crust of the issue is that ethnic minorities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. Black and Indigenous populations are most affected by environmental racism, yet this makes it no less of a collective issue. Local case studies were highlighted to drive this message close to home.
For example, most of Hamilton’s waste facilities are clustered just north of and within residential areas. This includes a proposed electronic waste processing facility, which can cause lead and mercury exposure, and an existing chemical wastes facility that is known for chemical explosions causing evacuations and serious injury. Loads of biosolids have been trucked through neighbourhoods posing disease risks from pathogens, concerns of terrible odours and ammonia use for steam filtering.
Studies show that Hamilton neighbourhoods with single-parent families and low education are the most exposed to air pollution. Since these neighbourhoods have fewer resources and are systematically marginalized, they are targeted by acts of environmental racism. The hashtag #EnvRacismCBTUACW continually discusses case studies across Canada.
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="239" gal_title="Green is not white 2"]
Along with the extensive examples of Canadians and Hamiltonians living in dire conditions due to environmental racism, as well as the government’s oversight of this issue, various Hamilton organizations have taken it upon themselves to drive change.
This workshop was the third part of a four-phase action research initiative on environmental racism by ACW, which develops tools to better the environmental conditions of jobs and the workplace and CBTU, a coalition that breaks the silence on African-Canadians’ labour issues. While this third stage involves community engagement, the fourth and final stage involves a joint report and video that will be housed on both the ACW and CBTU websites.
The slogan “Green is Not White” highlights that green jobs and environmentally safe conditions should not be reserved for white people. People of colour are most likely to work and live in dire conditions, and therefore deserve economic justice and access to clean water and land.
By: Donna Nadeem
On Jan. 22, Arig al Shaibah, the associate vice-president (Equity and Inclusion) with the McMaster equity and inclusion office, held an event in the Mills Library Connections Centre centered around McMaster’s “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Framework and Strategy.”
During her term, al Shaibah plans to engage with local and historically underrepresented and marginalized communities to understand and learn about their challenges.
She hopes this awareness will enable her to build strong ideas and strategies to advance the equity and inclusion goals at McMaster.
The event begin with al Shaibah’s presentation on McMaster’s EDI framework and strategy.
McMaster’s EDI framework is broken down into four pillars: institutional commitment and capacity, educational content and context, interactional capabilities and climate and compositional diversity and community engagement.
The first pillar aims to “mobilize McMaster’s commitment and capacity to advance inclusive excellence by establishing and resourcing structures, systems, policies and processes that facilitate equity, diversity and inclusion leadership, governance and accountability.”
The second pillar seeks to strengthen academic programs, practices and scholarships to ensure they “demonstrate relevance… to diverse local, regional, national and global communities.”
The third pillar focuses on improving the McMaster community’s ability to foster a culture of inclusion and an environment where members feel “a sense of dignity and belonging.”
The fourth pillar aims to engage marginalized communities on campus, enhance employment equity, and improve student access and success amongst historically underrepresented students and community members.
“Not everyone here feels included, so even among our diverse [community population], some of us may feel included and others not, in part because of inequities that exist,” said al Shaibah.
Al Shaibah explained an action plan that would help facilitate the development of the EDI plan.
Some of the points included developing goals across the institution and faculties and integrating the EDI into academic programs and self-reported student experiences, strengthening complaint resolution from harassment and discrimination complaints and increasing training for McMaster community members and committees.
Throughout the presentation, al Shaibah spoke in abstract terms, not outlining specific initiatives that the university will undertake take to improve student access and success amongst marginalized students and training for McMaster community members.
After the presentation, the floor was open for students to express concerns and feedback.
Students asked for more clarity about McMaster’s plans to meet the objectives stipulated in the EDI.
Even after students pressed further, Shaibah still failed to clarify what in particular she would do to work to combat the problems she raised.
One student expressed concern over the fact that his friend who is of Indigenous descent was not able to obtain a Teaching Assistant position for an Indigenous course while a student who was not of Indigenous heritage successfully secured the position.
Al Shaibah responded that if the candidates’ qualifications were equal, the Indigenous students’ application should have been prioritized.
Students also asked about whether other universities have implemented this EDI framework and whether it has been successful for them.
Al Shaibah said that some schools have explored strategies similar to this, but have not pursued an ‘across the board’ strategy that applied to faculties across the entire institution.
In addition, students asked how they could get involved with the implementation of the strategy.
According to Al Shaibah, McMaster students can promote the EDI framework through clubs and the McMaster Students Union. Students can also contact McMaster’s equity and inclusion office at [email protected].
By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele
The Student Success Centre is pleased to launch the Undergrad Peer Tutoring Network (UPTN), a new network for students to access affordable, quality student tutors, both in-person and online. The platform is powered by TutorOcean, a relatively new start-up company that was selected in partnership with the McMaster Engineering Society. Differing from other academic services available, this network is a chance to connect with another student who successfully completed the course; tutors must have received an A- to provide services.
“Through the Student Life Enhancement Fund, all McMaster undergraduate students who access the network receive a subsidy for the first seven sessions, meaning they only pay $9 per hour,” says Jenna Storey, Academic Skills Program Coordinator for the Student Success Centre. “Tutors are available from all Faculties and an important part of this service.”
Gina Robinson, Director of the Student Success Centre, adds, “Providing quality and affordable tutoring is an important objective of this initiative. Finding sustainable funding for subsidy will need to be part the plan moving forward.”
Understanding that there are a number of gatekeeping courses (mandatory courses for students to complete their degree), the Student Success Centre continues to work with Faculties to ensure that these courses are available on the network. The Student Success Centre has also incorporated measures to ensure that tutors are well-prepared, offering a number of different sessions for tutors to become “McMaster Certified.”
As Jenna shares, “Students are encouraged to find a tutor who has a ‘McMaster Certified’ badge on their profile, indicating they have completed the tutor training session in accordance with best practices. This training focuses on running an effective session, ethical standards, and communication skills.”
The Undergrad Writing Centre continues to be another support available for students, and can be used at any stage of the writing process. All Writing Tutors have undergone training through the Student Success Centre, which has been externally recognized by the College Reading and Learning Association (CLRA).
Students can book up to ten appointments per semester for free. This semester, new drop-in writing support is also available Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Undergrad Writing Centre is located in the Learning Commons on the second floor of Mills Library.
Jill McMillan, Academic Skills Program Coordinator of the Student Success Centre, shares, “Writing remains is a key academic and life skill requirement. We are thrilled to have received certification recognition that demonstrates the quality of this peer based service. Students are supported in meeting their writing potential.”
Students looking for quick study tips and other academic support can connect with Academic Coaches, located in the SSC Lounge as well as in the Learning Commons on the second floor of Mills Library every Monday-Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Learn more about the Undergrad Peer Tutoring Network here.
Learn more about the Undergrad Writing Centre here.
Exam season is now upon us and it’s time to form a strategy to tackle December. The most important part of that strategy is finding a way to take care of yourself during this month of studying. Be sure to take some breaks between your study sessions. Take our quiz to get some suggestions on how to spend these precious breaks.
[spacer height="20px"][thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]