Commentary | McGill’s new equity policy must be passed

SSMU needs a framework for accessibility

In 1989, SSMU declared itself an “anti-oppressive organization,” and has from that point on consistently been a student-driven pioneer in the field of equity. This commitment is couched in the belief that educational institutions must be open to every individual, regardless of their history or background. As such, it is imperative that the new equity policy be passed at the next meeting of Council. It will enable SSMU to better fulfill its mandate to cultivate an environment free from harassment and discrimination.

It is vital to locate equity at SSMU in the greater McGill context. It was only in 1994 that the administration created the Joint Senate-Board Committee on Equity, and only in 2004 that an interim Policy on Harassment was drafted and ultimately passed. SSMU is a leader not only for our students, but for the rest of McGill. This should be reflected in the documents that govern our student life. Redefining “equity” must continue as our social and political context changes.

The last twenty years have been a significant period of reevaluation for our understanding of equity. Based on these reflections, we have produced a new manifestation of the equity policy. The 1989 policy was a paragraph-long document that took a stance against discrimination and harassment. Today, this living document has grown into a fully fleshed-out policy outlining clear protocol to address policy violations while understanding that each case must be examined with individual consideration and respect. Although, this new policy isn’t a radical change from previous years, it signals a new commitment to ensuring continuity between years and an increased accessibility for students. The new policy is well-suited for the moment, but it too should continuously be reevaluated and re-adapted to best suit the future needs of the student body.

The new equity policy is slated to be voted on at the next Council meeting, after two weeks of postponement due to procedural misconduct. This document is a proactive step toward challenging our understanding of interpersonal and systemic relations. The new equity policy focuses on asserting a clear understanding of what it means to be an equitable organization and, consequently, the responsibilities that SSMU has to its constituents. By creating a framework for SSMU Clubs and Services, it allows for students to maximize club accessibility and inclusiveness. It is the responsibility of councillors to know the structure within which they work and to actively facilitate the passing of policies which enhance students’ access to an inclusive environment.

The policy must be passed. We owe it to ourselves, to our history, and to our future as students at McGill. We encourage all students to come to the upcoming student council meeting on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6 p.m. Make sure your voice is heard!

Emily Clare, U4 Political Science major and Race and Ethnic Studies minor, is SSMU’s equity commissioner. Email her at equity.com@ssmu.mcgill.ca.

Lynsey Grosfield, U2 Anthropology and Women’s Studies (Joint Honours), is SSMU’s Social Justice Days coordinator. Write to her at sjd@ssmu.mcgill.ca.


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