By Anonymous

On Sept. 22, the Student Representative Assembly decisively voted to revoke club status for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, ending months of disgraceful inaction from the McMaster Students Union board of directors and clubs department.

As a Chinese student, I applaud the SRA’s decision to stand up for student safety. The CSSA — which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party — has openly admitted to reporting people on campus to the Chinese government. By policing people and reporting them to a totalitarian dictatorship, the CSSA seriously endangered students who criticize the Chinese Community Party — especially Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur students with family in China, given the Chinese government’s extensive human rights violations.

Many of us oppose the genocides in Tibet and Xinjiang, object to police brutality and rising authoritarianism in Hong Kong, and ultimately yearn to one day see freedom and democracy in our ancestral homelands. For us, the SRA’s monumental decision represents a strong affirmation of our right to exist safely on campus, and a rejection of Chinese Communist Party attempts to surveil and intimidate students.

Beyond my own opinion, the SRA has received sweeping praise. Rukiye Turdush, the Uyghur speaker condemned by the CSSA, applauded McMaster student representatives for standing up for our rights. Zhou Fengsuo, a famous Chinese human rights activist, called the vote momentous. Former Canadian ambassadors to China, David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques, strongly commended the SRA’s move.

However, we should not let widespread approval obscure an important nuance: the SRA’s decision to de-ratify the CSSA was long overdue because of inaction from the MSU board and staff.

The SRA’s decision comes seven months after international media first reported on the CSSA in February. However, the MSU board and staff caused most of the delay, as they were occupied with speculation about lawsuits and fretting over potential backlash, instead of actually addressing the issue.

For starters, at the March 24 SRA meeting, then-MSU President Ikram Farah stunningly claimed that there was mere “speculation” about what happened — despite numerous detailed reports from international media and Human Rights Watch.

“We look at federal, provincial, municipal, and university [policies], and … based on the information we currently have, none of that had been infringed upon,” stated Farah in the Mar. 24 SRA meeting, oblivious the reason why international media sounded the alarm in the first place.

Beyond replying to SRA members who questioned them, the MSU board of directors did nothing to address concerns. There was no public response to the international news articles or Human Rights Watch recommendations. Meanwhile, the clubs department took no action either.

Finally, even immediately prior to the vote, the board of directors continued trying to avoid the issue in the SRA meeting on Sept. 22. Alexandrea Johnston (vice president finance) suggested moving the CSSA motion to the next meeting. Sarah Figueiredo (vice president administration) and Shemar Hackett (vice president education) refused to vote on the deratification motion. MSU President Joshua Marando had conveniently left the meeting earlier.

The board’s persistent attempts to avoid touching the CSSA fueled rumours of intentional efforts to hush this issue, or self-censor, due to pressure from university administration and fear of Chinese government retaliation. Although these rumours are speculation, the MSU’s ominous silence on social media so far (in contrast to Marando’s dramatic public statement excoriating the Dominion Society, another de-ratified MSU club) does nothing to reassure concerned students.

Faced with such cowardice from the MSU board and staff, the SRA cut through the nonsense and did what’s right. While the board and staff buried their heads in the sand for seven months, it was SRA members who gathered evidence, made a presentation, and motioned to de-ratify the CSSA.

Moving forward, SRA members should continue to keep the board in check. Evidently, the board’s approach is not always correct, so having the SRA hold the board accountable makes for a better MSU.

Marando, however, needs to show better leadership. Similar to his strong condemnation of white supremacy, Marando should publicly and unequivocally make clear that the MSU will not tolerate attempts to police marginalized students; efforts to surveil and control Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur students on campus; or the hateful ideologies that enable genocide in Xinjiang. His silence so far on these concerns is deeply worrying.

The SRA has taken a bold first step in making campus a safer place, especially for students with family in China. Now it is time for Marando and the rest of the MSU board to stop twiddling their thumbs, match the SRA’s courage, and speak out against the threats and intimidation that students face.


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Photos C/O Kyle West

On the evening of Jan. 24, Josh Marando was voted in as the next unofficial president-elect of the McMaster Students Union.

Marando, a fourth year arts and science student, garnered over 600 first-choice votes compared to the second-place candidate Jeffrey Campana.

Overall, Marando received 40 per cent of the 2,654 first-place votes.

Marando’s platform consists of 12 pillars, touching on issues like mental health support, sexual violence and education costs.


Marando learned of the news of his victory via a phone call from the current MSU president Ikram Farah at 9:00 p.m. on Jan. 24.

He was surprised by how early he got the call.

“I was not expecting to hear as soon as we did. Last year, I knew that they heard at around 3:10 a.m, so when Ikram called me at 9:00 p.m., I was not really sure. I thought she was joking at first. I really expected her to say, ‘Just kidding,’” Marando said.

Marando was relieved to hear he won, admitting the last few days of the campaign were the most stressful ones. On the last day of polling, he went home in the afternoon to relax on his own before his campaign team gathered to await the results.

“We just invited the core team over because either way we just wanted to be happy because I think we did run a pretty good campaign and I think we are all pretty proud of the work that we did, regardless of what the outcome would have been,” said Marando.

After receiving word of his victory, Marando quickly sent a text to his parents.

“I sent a nice little text in our group chat just saying that I won,” Marando said. “I think my parents still don't fully understand what it is. They do not really know what the MSU does. There are obviously so supportive because they know it's something I have been working on for a very long time and they're just very, very excited.”

Looking ahead to the next few months, Marando said he will begin implementing smaller projects, like creating a student lounge in the McMaster University Student Centre, while continuing to consult different services on bigger projects, like academic accessibility and mental health support.

Marando is also focused on formulating a plan to advocate against the provincial government’s changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and student fees.

“Something that I am trying to do is fully understand the changes, fully see what impact that will have on students and see what we could do differently than what we were doing before,” Marando said. “We have been advocating to this government for however many months now and we still saw this happen, so clearly something needs to change.”

Reflecting on his campaign, Marando believes he was successful because his message resonated with what students truly wanted.

“Something that we really try to do is just talk to students and see what exactly they wanted, and also some things that they would have wanted when they were in first year,” Marando said. “The people see the MSU president that shirt and jacket and suit and it feels very disconnected from students, but I think the real way that you can create meaningful change is by being one of the students and really connecting with them during this process.”

Slated to begin his term in May, Marando is excited and optimistic about the job in front of him.


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Photo by Kyle West

On Jan. 26, two days after Josh Marando was elected the next McMaster Students Union president, The Silhouette sat down with Marando to discuss his campaign experiences and goals for the future. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

First thing, how are you feeling, and how have the past few days been?

I think I'm still a little bit in shock. The past few days have been a bit of a wild whirlwind. I wasn't expecting to hear as soon as we did. Last year, I knew that they heard at, around 3:10 a.m, so when Ikram called me at 9:00, I wasn't really sure. I thought she was joking at first. I really expected her to say, ‘Just kidding.’


What did Ikram say?

I just remember her saying, ‘Congratulations to the president-elect,’ and then I said, ‘You’ve gotta be freaking kidding me today.’ I really just needed to make sure that she was right…  that she got the right number [and] she got the right person.


Who did you tell after? Who was the first person outside of the team?

The first people I told outside of the team were my parents. I sent a nice little text in our group chat just saying that I won. And then after that, a lot of phone calls kept coming in.


Was running for president something you’ve thought about for a few years?

So it's definitely something that's always been in the back of my mind. Before I decide to run, I talked a lot to the MSU vice president (Administration) Kristina Epifano. I was like, "What do you think I should do? If I don't run for president, I would likely run for vice president (Administration)." But then I was talking to MSU president Ikram Farah and she said, ‘It just like seems like your goals are bigger than that. It seems like you would really benefit from being in this role and it seems like your ideas would really benefit the students by being in this role.’


Over these 12 days of campaigning and several months of planning and deciding that you wanted to do it, what did you learn about yourself?

I learned that I'm more capable than I think. I remember the biggest thing that made me nervous was making a platform. But I think when that started to come together, that's when I really became confident in the idea that I could do this role.


Why do you think students voted for you? What about your platform or you personally appealed to them?

Something that we really try to do is just talk to students and see what exactly they wanted, and also some things that they would have wanted when they were in first year. Because in reality, I think that's something that's said very often. People are like, ‘Oh, the MSU president doesn't really do much.’ But that's really not true. They do a whole lot. It's just that there's very few things that can happen in one year. Often times, you see the changes made by a president the next year or the year after.


What are the first platform points that you’ll address after your term starts?

Obviously there are some projects that are easier to do than others. I have no doubt that we'll be able to make the MUSC student lounge and I would love for that to happen by the start of next year, so I'm probably going to start working on that.


What is your message to students now?

The first thing is, thank you to the students who did vote. Even if they didn’t vote for me, I’m still happy that students were engaged and I just want students to know that my care for students didn’t end when election night ended. Now that the election is over, that’s when I feel like I need to talk to students even more because, in reality, I’m here to represent them, not only during the election, but for the rest of this year and next year.


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