Photo C/O Catherine Goce
On Sept. 22, the Student Representative Assembly voted to de-ratify the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association due to concerns that the club’s actions had endangered members of the community. An investigation by the Silhouette has found that there had been several instances of miscommunication in the months leading up to the de-ratification.
During the summer, the Student Representative Assembly were under the impression that MAC CSSA would be under probation during the 2019-2020 academic year. However, this was not the case. Miscommunication between members of the SRA and some MSU staff members led to MAC CSSA being ratified as an MSU club on July 21 without first being placed on probation. On Sept. 22, MAC CSSA was de-ratified due to reasons unrelated to this miscommunication.
Every summer, the Clubs Administrator provides the SRA with a list of groups to recommend for MSU club status, highlighting any groups that require additional monitoring. On June 18, Clubs Administrator Aditi Sharma released a memo that recommended 327 student groups for MSU club status. The memo drew attention to two McMaster clubs: MAC CSSA and LifeLine.
“Two returning clubs (CSSA & Lifeline) are marked with a double asterisk (**) which indicates certain issues that came up during the year and supplemental details for those issues,” Sharma states in the memo.
The supplemental details that Sharma was referring to, titled “Clubs Ratification Supplemental Info #2 - CSSA and Lifeline”, provides some background on the clubs. It highlights concerns that members of MAC CSSA had endangered an activist who spoke on campus about human rights issues for Uighur Muslims in China on Feb. 11. The document gives no indication that MAC CSSA was to be put on probation.
Putting a club on probation allows the MSU to monitor the group’s activities and evaluate the need for further disciplinary action. According to the MSU Clubs Operating Policy, if clubs are found guilty of certain offenses, they may be placed on a period of probation. During this period, the club is required to report all future events and meetings to the Clubs Administrator. If the club is found to violate the rules again, it is subject to disciplinary action.
During the June 23 SRA meeting, a motion was put forward to ratify new and returning MSU clubs as recommended by the Clubs Administrator for the 2019-2020 academic year. An amendment to this motion was put forward to ratify all clubs with the exception of MAC CSSA, McMaster Chinese News Network, McMaster Chinese Graduate Students Society and McMaster Chinese Professional Association. A motion to postpone this discussion to the July 21 SRA meeting was passed 19-1, citing the need for more information.
On July 21, the SRA voted 17-1 to ratify all new and returning MSU clubs as recommended by the Clubs Administrator for the 2019-2020 academic year. MAC CSSA was ratified without any probationary period, since the Clubs Administrator had not recommended that they be placed on probation.
Email correspondence in preparation for an SRA meeting almost two weeks later indicated that there was an assumption that MAC CSSA had been placed on probation. In reality, however, nowhere do the meeting minutes state that MAC CSSA had been placed on probation.
On Aug. 12, Administrative Services Coordinator Victoria Scott sent an email to an SRA member in which she mistakenly stated that MAC CSSA was on probation.
“. . .I can tell you now that the Chinese Students and Scholars Association’s ratification was contingent on providing outstanding information, plus they are on probation for six months,” said Scott in her email.
“One more clarification! They are on probation, but there wasn’t a time set,” Scott clarified through a second email that she sent the same day.
Both clarifications were incorrect.
“In my August 12 email to [an SRA member], I incorrectly referenced a memo from the Clubs Department that was circulated in June to the SRA,” said Scott, when asked by the Silhouette on Nov. 5 where she obtained the information on CSSA’s probation.
Neither MAC CSSA’s probation nor the length of time for a probationary period are mentioned in the Clubs Department’s June memo.
On Aug. 14, an SRA member, who asked to remain anonymous, sent an email to MSU President Josh Marando to clarify MAC CSSA’s privileges including their access to MSU resources and the club’s ability to attend ClubsFest.
“Towards the end of our meeting [on Aug. 13], I believe [one SRA member] had asked about the BoD [Board of Directors] about the current situation with [MAC] CSSA, to which they replied that as of now, the CSSA does not have access to MSU resources . . .” said the SRA member in the email.
“I know the end of the SRA meeting got quite confusing, I was confused as well so I apologize for that. [MAC] CSSA is currently under probation this year, which means they must keep clubs admin informed of all events they hold, are watched more closely, and will face serious consequences in the instance of another infraction,” replied Marando over email.
It is unclear whether both the SRA member and Marando are referring to an informal meeting, or whether records of this meeting are missing from the August 13 SRA meeting minutes, as this was an emergency meeting called to revoke the Dominion’s Society club status.
Almost three weeks later, on Sept. 3, the same SRA member sent a follow-up email regarding MAC CSSA’s supposed probation, which both Scott and Marando had confirmed earlier via email.
“I wanted to ask — why exactly was the CSSA put on probation? I’m not sure if I missed it, but I don’t think it was ever clear about the reason behind this [decision],” asked the SRA member. “In addition, I don’t believe that there is actually any explicit record of the CSSA being disciplined.”
“I believe the terms this year are that all events go through the Clubs Administrator as well as conditions surrounding ratification should they breach policy this year. That said, I don’t fully know,” replied Marando, offering to check and meet with the Clubs Department after ClubsFest.
After at least one month of miscommunication, on Sept. 13, Marando clarified that the Clubs Department had recommended LifeLine to be ratified contingent on a probationary period, but had not recommended this for MAC CSSA.
“I am still following up with the minutes of the meeting as they haven’t been released yet, so I would interpret it as LifeLine’s probation still stands, but the CSSA one should be put forward again [...] Again, I’m still confirming to be 100%, but I would say it’s probably best to go ahead and put forward the CSSA probation motion again at the September 22 [SRA] meeting,” clarified Marando in his email on Sept. 13.
In an SRA Facebook group message following the Sept. 22 SRA meeting, Marando acknowledged the miscommunication surrounding MAC CSSA’s probation and apologized for the confusion.
“Regarding the confusion and mistakes made regarding the CSSA not being informed at the meeting and the initial probation. Overall, both are big oversites [sic], but please understand that they were not intentional by any means and we have put plans to ensure they do not happen again,” said Marando in the Facebook chat.
When asked about this miscommunication at the Nov. 3 SRA meeting, Marando stated that he believed everyone on the SRA was under the impression that the Club Department’s recommendation of probation applied to MAC CSSA, as well as LifeLine.
“It was really a procedural error,” said Marando.
This was the first time that he publicly acknowledged the issue of miscommunication pertaining to the CSSA’s supposed probation.
“Trying to rectify moving forward in terms of making sure that motions are more specific when it comes to ratifying clubs also, we are doing a full review of the clubs application process through our Internal Governance committee,” said Marando.
In the President’s Report, Marando states that club policy review is ongoing.
“Overall, I am hoping to have a bulk of the policy writing time in December, with conversations happening during November. We are looking at how funding works, improvements to [re-ratifications], how and who ratifies clubs, the Club Executive Council, and what qualifies a recognized club,” stated Marando in the report.
Time will tell the impact any changes made to club policies will have on future communication within the MSU.
Recently, the McMaster Students Union de-ratified the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association due to its “alleged links to the Chinese government” according to the CBC News. The report from the news article was unprecedented for the MSU and alarming for me and other members of the McMaster community. Based on the online meeting notes (2002-2019) of the MSU’s governing body, the Student Representative Assembly, an alleged connection with a foreign government has never been a factor in the de-ratification of a visible minority group.
While Columbia University and the University of Cambridge had previously banned their CSSA clubs, both universities re-ratified the clubs in a matter of weeks after resolving their violations. Therefore, to the best of my knowledge, it would be one of the first times that alleged connections to the Chinese government have played a role in the de-ratification of any CSSA.
If the MSU is now deciding to factor in an alleged association with a government as a reason to ban a student club, then they need to come up with an exclusion list of “unacceptable” countries. If that list starts with China, where does it end? And what kind of campus environment will it create?
The CBC article may not fully reflect the true process of the Mac CSSA de-ratification — the meeting notes record the decision as being based on a violation of Section 5.1.3. of the MSU clubs operating policy, aka “actions, which endanger the safety or security of any person or property.” The CBC article politicized the de-ratification, demonizing China with absolute certainty. Yet the SRA did not make any public statements to provide a counter narrative.
The CBC article politicized the de-ratification, demonizing China with absolute certainty.
As a result, this sent a hurtful and damaging message to the Chinese community on campus. Most of my Chinese friends are angry and confused at this attempt to openly disenfranchise them. Some have discussed their frustration in private with tears in their eyes, assuming that taking pride in China is not allowed in Canada. Some people believe that they have to lie low to abide by Canada’s rules. Some question if they will be able to extend their visa, find a job or apply for immigration if they express opinions different from the MSU.
As a proud Chinese student who was born and raised in China and decided to make Canada my new home after great consideration, I was shocked at how this decision goes against every value I believe Canada stands for. What the MSU did, in my opinion, is a classic example of racism, even though it is covert. While criticising the Chinese government alone is not racist, disbanding a Chinese student group based on their political expression, free speech and ancestral origin is absolutely racist and unacceptable.
Here is how: it is almost like dictating to us, you must be anti-Chinese government to become one of us, otherwise you should go back to China. In my view, even the anti-government Chinese students are also affected by such restrictions, as their right to freely determine their political beliefs is also compromised. No one should need approval to hold a lawful political stance. Under the SRA’s rhetoric, members of the Chinese community, regardless of their political stance, have become second-class citizens as we must have our beliefs certified to enjoy the freedom of association.
The real test for racism, in my view, is not in how you treat “model citizen” minority groups who align with your beliefs, but in how you treat those who don’t agree with you, and who do things that make you uncomfortable.
The real test for racism, in my view, is not in how you treat “model citizen” minority groups who align with your beliefs, but in how you treat those who don’t agree with you, and who do things that make you uncomfortable.
The CSSA incident is precisely the test. At the centre of this incident is the open letter claiming that Mac CSSA notified the Chinese consulate about a public speaker in McMaster who supports Uighur separatism in China — the letter turned out to be prepared by an alumnus without informing Mac CSSA, as the alumnus had instead consulted the prior president of Mac CSSA. Disregarding the fact of who prepared the letter, I would still have great sympathy for their impulse to speak out. As China has gone through centuries of blood and wars, a unified China is precious for many Chinese students and other peace-seeking people on campus. Regrettably, this letter was interpreted by the SRA as extremist, dangerous and instructed by the Chinese government.
Additionally, the SRA meeting notes claimed that there would be “no consequences” of disbanding CSSA. What about the thousands of Chinese international students who were denied a service they came to rely on under the MSU? What about the support CSSA provides to the international students who will be “shamefully neglected” if it were disbanded? As stated in the meeting minutes, no one from Mac CSSA was contacted to speak at the de-ratification meeting. Since the SRA effectively barred CSSA from the meeting without telling them about it, no one was left to advocate or to help the Chinese community at McMaster.
Since the SRA effectively barred CSSA from the meeting without telling them about it, no one was left to advocate or to help the Chinese community at McMaster.
The SRA's decision to de-ratify CSSA was an example of the racism that Chinese students routinely face. It is assumed that because we are Chinese, we must have the worst intentions. Because we are Chinese, we must be silent and submissive and never “rock the boat”, even when our services are denied. And because we are Chinese, believing in a unified and prosperous China means that we are brainwashed and should not be embraced by Canada. This is the message the MSU sent by this exclusion.
This is why it is important to tell the Chinese students that McMaster needs their voices. My dear Chinese students, the MSU owes you the right to speak your mind on these issues. My dear Chinese students, whether you support the Chinese government or not, please step forward. In this country, no one should have the power to dictate your beliefs based on your Chinese origin. My dear Chinese students: be independent, be loud and be proud.
Photo C/O Kyle West
On Nov. 3, the Student Representative Assembly rejected the McMaster Chinese Student and Scholars Association’s appeal to have their club re-ratified.
The SRA passed a motion on Sept. 22 to de-ratify MAC CSSA for violating section 5.1.3 of the Clubs Operating Policy by endangering student safety. This decision was partly based on evidence documents and a student testimony provided at the meeting. The evidence claims that MAC CSSA had surveilled and harassed the speaker of a Feb. 11 event, which discussed the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Western China.
Most of the meeting was spent on a presentation from the CSSA’s legal council, Samantha Wu, and a question and answer period. Wu, on behalf of MAC CSSA, requested that the SRA reconsider its decision to de-ratify the club.
“The CSSA is a McMaster University club with thousands of members. It has benefited numerous newly arrived international students in the McMaster community for 35 years. The club organizes events celebrating Chinese holidays, food and performances as part of McMaster’s diverse community,” said Wu in her presentation.
During the Sept. 22 meeting where the SRA de-ratified MAC CSSA, the SRA presented what they believed to be evidence in support of MAC CSSA’s connection with the Chinese government. This evidence came from a 2018 report from the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The U.S. report stated that CSSAs across the U.S. have governmental ties with Chinese embassies and consulates, noting that similar operations could be taking place in US-allied countries.
While SRA’s final motion to de-ratify MAC CSSA did not point to governmental ties as a factor in the SRA’s decision, Wu discussed concerns raised about MAC CSSA in the SRA evidence report.
Wu refuted allegations that MAC CSSA had reported on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, stating that communication occurred between MAC CSSA and the Chinese consulate to raise awareness of consulate services.
“[The CSSA] has not informed on, and will not inform on any McMaster students or events critical to the Chinese government … the CSSA is an independent McMaster club and is unaffiliated with other CSSAs or the Chinese government,” said Wu at the SRA meeting.
In response to questions that the SRA sent to MAC CSSA on Oct. 8, MAC CSSA sent the MSU speaker a document of their answers on Oct. 27. In this document, MAC CSSA denied that Chinese authorities played a role in the club’s membership, elections, meetings and other activities.
MAC CSSA stated that Chinese consulate officials have attended informal MAC CSSA events.
“Recently, for example, MAC CSSA club organized an informal event that occurred on September 2, 2019. During this event, two Chinese consulate officials visited the McMaster campus to meet briefly with new international Chinese students attending McMaster to discuss adjusting to living in Canada,” wrote MAC CSSA in response to the SRA’s questions.
Wu claimed that the decision to de-ratify MAC CSSA was based on procedural unfairness, as the SRA failed to follow the procedures outlined in the MSU Clubs Operating Policy.
She also argued that the decision to de-ratify MAC CSSA violated the MSU Clubs Operating Policy, referencing sections 5.3.1 and 5.3.2 in the Clubs Operating Policy. The policy states that the Clubs Administrator may sanction an MSU club, and in the event of a more serious infraction the CEC may decide on a more severe punishment. According to Wu, this procedure never took place.
However, “Clubs Operating Policy section 5.3.2 is in reference to disbandment, not deratification, though it should be noted that the disbandment is subject to SRA final approval as SRA is the only body that can ratify the decision to disband the club,” according to a document titled “CSSA Statement,” dated Nov. 3.
At the Nov. 3 SRA meeting, MSU President Josh Marando clarified that all clubs are contingent on SRA ratification when asked by The Silhouette if the decision to de-ratify MAC CSSA followed the Club Operating Policy.
Marando also added there is no policy that states an appeal process for de-ratification is mandatory.
“The SRA decided to grant an appeal process in this case to ensure that the CSSA has the opportunity to present their side of the story,” said Marando.
Despite the time spent considering MAC CSSA’s alleged connection to the Chinese government, this was not a part of the final motion to de-ratify the club. The final de-ratification motion was based on the concern that actions taken by MAC CSSA members had endangered members of the McMaster community.
On Feb. 13, MAC CSSA was among the signatories of a letter that accused the event of publicizing national hatred. The letter stated that signatories had contacted the Chinese consulate in Toronto about the Feb. 11 event discussing the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Western China.
The SRA deemed the act of contacting the consulate to be dangerous. Citing a report from Human Rights watch, members raised concerns that students’ safety could have been jeopardized if the Chinese consulate found out that they attended the event.
When asked about whether they played a role in releasing the Feb. 13 statement and contacting the Chinese Consulate, MAC CSSA claimed that a McMaster alum, who was not currently a member of MAC CSSA, had contacted the consulate on Feb. 11. In addition, they claim that the same alum prepared and obtained consent from the then-president of MAC CSSA to place the club’s name on the Feb. 13 statement.
Even though they deny having contacted the consulate, MAC CSSA admits that they signed the letter.
“MAC CSSA agreed to place its name on the Statement out of concern for the safety of McMaster students and in order to exercise MAC CSSA members’ freedom of expression rights. By signing the Statement, there was no intention by MAC CSSA to censor or intimidate anyone in the McMaster community,” MAC CSSA wrote in their answers to SRA questions.
During the Nov. 3 SRA meeting, the SRA denied MAC CSSA’s appeal to reconsider the club’s de-ratification.
“The main sentiment coming out is that regardless of intent, we are talking about the actual action and that we are upholding the decision that we’ve made because students have come forward and said they feel unsafe,” stated VP (Education) Shemar Hackett.
Photo by Cindy Cui/ Photo Editor
* Names and identifying details have been altered to protect the privacy of individuals*
The Oct. 22 Lennon Wall demonstration at McMaster was intended to raise awareness for the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests happening in Hong Kong and to express solidarity with Hong Kong protestors. An individual interrupted the demonstration at around 4 p.m. and attempted to damage the signs on the Lennon Wall and remove protestors’ face masks.
However, there is a consensus — both among those who support the cause and those who do not — that what happened on Oct. 22 is much bigger than a one-time event.
In the days since, the incident has raised issues of inaction, censorship and the isolation of international students on campus.
One of the demonstrators, Cameron*, called the altercation a clear attempt to use violence and intimidation to silence the protest. Jamie, another demonstrator, pointed to a pattern designed to silence protesters who are supporting the democracy movement in Hong Kong, which has been demonstrated by incidents in Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland.
Leslie*, a student from the Chinese mainland, disapproved of how the individual who disrupted the demonstration expressed their disagreement.
“Instead of tearing things down, [the individual] should have called the campus police in the first place, and ask them to check this masked protest,” said Leslie.
Alex, another student from the Chinese mainland, maintains that the Oct. 22 incident did not undermine anyone’s freedom of speech. They assert that the individual who interfered with the demonstration was justified in being upset, as the content of the protest dealt with separatist activities, which are frowned upon in China. Alex believes that since there was this justification, the individual’s actions were not against anyone’s freedom of speech.
“If you want me to try to understand why that student committed this so-called violent action, I would only say if I were him, I would be doing that because I'm not content, I'm feeling even offended by the way they did that, the Hong Kong protesters on our campus,” said Alex.
Leslie acknowledges both sides of the problem. They believe that what the individual did was not civil — but that neither is wearing masks and promoting what Leslie perceives to be violence committed by the protesters in Hong Kong. Leslie refers to the masks as a symbol of the “anonymous violence” happening in Hong Kong.
Leslie and Alex also highlighted a difference in beliefs that render the situation even more complex. While the Oct. 22 situation happened within McMaster’s campus, it may point to differences in upbringing that go beyond our campus’s walls.
Alex deplores the instinct of many Canadian locals to generalize international students from the Chinese mainland, adding that there is a misunderstanding between the mainland students and other people on campus. Alex believes that this generalization fails to consider how different Canadian norms are for those who did not grow up with Western ideologies.
“[Someone said] ‘Oh, the Chinese students, they are so used to the government telling them what to do … so when they are outside China, they don't know what to do so they have to contact their government. They have to let the government tell them what to do.’ Well, first off, that is damn wrong … Sometimes, we just feel very lonely in our power of speech. We've been isolated by Western media stuff … We're definitely not used to the so-called liberal, democratic way of saying something. When there's a problem, we go solve that. We don't go on [the] street, we don't go on any form of protest … Here [in Canada], whoever has the bigger voice wins,” Alex said.
Leslie believes that Canadians’ belief in Western liberal democracy prevents them from entertaining other political ideologies and from carrying out dialogue with those who come from the mainland of China without the use of words such as “dictatorship” or “authoritarian”.
One SRA member pointed out that the Lennon Wall incident violated the McMaster Student Code of Conduct, which protects students’ right to safety and security. The Code is meant to ensure an environment free from intimidation and discrimination, and to protect students’ right to security of their personal property. It also condemns threats and acts of vandalism — labels that the demonstrators have attached to the individual who initiated the altercation.
In an SRA meeting on Nov. 3, the McMaster Lennon Wall demonstrators urged the SRA to release a public statement.
“We just hope [the SRA] will speak up for vulnerable students who face violence on campus by releasing a public statement and speak up for our rights … We hope that you will stand in solidarity with us, as demonstrators whose rights to safely protest and dissent on campus were violated,” they declared.
In response, the SRA promised to release a statement regarding the Oct. 22 demonstration.
Since then, MSU president Josh Marando has published a statement through his president’s page on The Silhouette. He affirmed the MSU’s support of the students’ right to protest peacefully and exist safely on campus.
“The MSU is always working towards creating a safer and more inclusive environment for students. As such, actions, activities or attitudes that work against that notion should not have a place in our campus discourse,” said Marando.
The McMaster administration also provided a statement. Gord Arbeau, director of communications at McMaster, emphasized the importance of conducting a thorough investigation.
McMaster security, who were called to the demonstration after the incident took place, are conducting an investigation.. Only when the investigation is complete can the university determine what policies are relevant and what further actions, if any, are needed. The Code might be one of the policies considered, should further action be required.
“Thankfully, these types of incidents are rare on our campus,” added Arbeau.
However rare such incidents may be, Cameron believes that a statement of support from the university could have a large impact.
“McMaster’s name is a big deal, and if they legitimize what we're doing, then that means a lot to certain people. That means that the institution has put their faith in us as a cause,” said Cameron.
Cameron added that the altercation during the Oct. 22 Lennon Wall demonstration should not be seen as an isolated incident, but rather as a part of a systemic problem in which protesters are silenced through violence and intimidation. Jamie also agrees that silence and inaction are dangerous when the issue is so deeply rooted.
“This should not be treated as just a one-off incident. I think the university and the McMaster Students Union needs to realize that there was a more systemic issue here as well and therefore also develop more long term solutions as possible,” said Jamie.
Jamie, Cameron and the other demonstrators are not giving up on protests any time soon. They want protestors in Hong Kong to know they are not alone, that there are students that stand with them.
“There's a perception that Canada is very far away from Hong Kong [and] maybe it doesn't matter so much, but we want to say ‘Hold on a second, no, it does matter’. It matters because there's lots of Canadians living in Hong Kong. There's lots of Hong Kong students here at McMaster,” Jamie explained.
The demonstrators’ ultimate ideal goal is to educate people about the protests in Hong Kong and for McMaster students to understand enough about Hong Kong to show support and solidarity.
“Us [students] here in Canada, we're lucky we don't have to live with the consequences of what of what we're doing, right? And so the most important thing to us is for every single person to fully understand the situation unfolding in the city across the sea,” said Cameron.
Photo C/O Kyle West
By: William Li
Content Warning: White supremacy
On July 21, the Student Representative Assembly briefly discussed concerns about clubs engaging in foreign surveillance and white supremacy — but in a shocking move, put these concerns aside and simply ratified all proposed clubs anyway, triggering an intervention just three days later by McMaster Students' Union President Josh Marando.
Although Marando’s quick response to concerns of white supremacy and threats to marginalized students is a good start, this incident remains problematic: Why did the SRA ratify the Dominion society in the first place, even though these exact concerns were brought up in the SRA meeting prior to the ratification vote?
Currently, the clubs administrator processes club applications and provides a list of clubs to the SRA, which usually votes to approve all at once. However, the clubs administrator is an unelected person, and they are historically either unwilling or unable to act when clubs promote or endorse actions that put students at risk.
For example, they declined to take action in February, when the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) publicly declared that they reported an event on campus to the Chinese government for discussing China’s human rights violations against Uighur Muslims. Soon, there were international headlines and concerns that such surveillance on campus puts Uighur and Chinese students at risk, since criticism of the Chinese Communist Party is often grounds for imprisonment in China.
The clubs administrator then took months to prepare a memo in response, which the SRA quickly overlooked as they re-ratified the CSSA at their July 21 meeting without addressing the memo’s concerns of surveillance and harassment.
The still-unresolved CSSA fiasco is a great example of how the Dominion society is not a one-time thing, but rather, just the latest symptom of a much more serious problem: the MSU’s glaring inability to manage clubs, and an urgent need for major reform.
Although we have a new clubs administrator now, the systemic issues with this model of governance persist: the SRA expects the clubs administrator to manage problematic clubs, but the clubs administrator does not do much beyond preliminary research and providing information to the SRA upon request.
The result is that nobody does anything. Anybody who can successfully fill out forms simply gets stamped and approved. Clubs get away with everything from foreign surveillance to peddling false medical information, while MSU officials busy themselves tossing political hot potatoes at one another.
We saw such political runaround in action when SRA members tried asking clarifying questions about certain clubs, and the clubs administrator wrote in their response, “I strongly recommend ratifying the majority of clubs such that the MSU Clubs Department can move forward with our activities for the year. If there are still concerns about certain clubs, it would be better to bring your questions directly to them.”
Given this apparent urgency for SRA members to stop bothering the clubs administrator with questions about clubs and just move on, there should be no surprise that the Dominion society escaped the proper scrutiny that should have happened before—rather than after—the rushed ratification vote.
While the SRA and clubs administrator have rightfully gotten flak over these decisions, we must remember that the problem is systemic. The clubs administrator job description does not explicitly require them to supervise clubs, ensure truthfulness in club applications or even enforce the clubs operating policy. Meanwhile, the SRA appears ill-equipped to pick up the slack on this front.
In order to address this, the SRA should not simply rubber stamp whatever is put in front of them by the clubs administrator; rather, they should take the time to do research and get fully informed before voting. Additionally, as our elected representatives, they should make the political decisions that the clubs administrator cannot, which includes exercising their power to withhold club status.
Although some may argue that revoking club status should not be used as a tool for censorship, we must remember that club status is a privilege, not a right. If clubs expect to access funding, ClubSpace and other such perks paid for with student fees, then the SRA should hold clubs to the same standard as other MSU departments.
Next, the SRA must revisit the rushed July 21 ratification vote and actually scrutinize clubs properly (perhaps at the emergency meeting that Marando has called for, though it remains to be scheduled). Instead of having the MSU President intervene each time there is a problem or waiting for issues to blow up in the media, the SRA should proactively resolve issues. The consequences of inaction can be clearly seen in how Chinese nationalists have instigated violence on other university campuses, while white nationalists have been provoking violence right here in Hamilton.
Finally, in the long-term, we need systemic change. Even though the clubs operating policy was recently amended in June, the updated policy quickly flopped in action when it failed to prevent the Dominion society ratification about-face. Furthermore, even Human Rights Watch has felt compelled to provide recommendations for more substantial change to address the Chinese government’s threats to academic freedom. The recent amendment’s stunning failure, the recommendations from HRW, and Marando’s intervention show that band-aid solutions will be insufficient — the entire clubs operating policy is no longer viable and must be overhauled.
The SRA must now show leadership so that these troubling incidents do not happen again. If nothing significant is done, then this cycle — where the MSU condones clubs that endanger students and then pauses to reflect only after enough controversy is attracted — will simply continue.