On March 25 and 26, the SSMU Equity Committee will host the “Equity and Media” conference, the first of its kind at McGill. A two-part project, the conference’s first day consists of a panel discussion on modern Islamaphobia in North American media. Following the panel discussion, the second day of the conference will feature the research of undergraduate students concerning topics of “Equity and Media,” a unique opportunity at McGill.
The idea was first conceived by Brendan Shanahan, U3 History student and chairperson of the conference’s subcommittee, in collaboration with the SSMU Equity Committee. In an interview with The Daily, Shanahan mentioned that previous to “Equity and Media,” he had never been involved with issues of equity before this year. However, with his academic interest in history he decided to plan a conference where undergraduates could share their ideas and research instead of simply writing about them for class.
Shanahan described equity as “the breaking down of conceptions of the Other.” To facilitate the dialogue, the second day of the conference is loosely divided into a few sub-themes: social media and social movements, equity, media and concepts of the body, and the media and civil rights.
SSMU Equity Commissioner and U4 Political Science student Emily Clare told The Daily “The point of the conference is to mainstream equity into academia and to see that everyone can participate in the dialogue of equity.” According to the conference’s press release, student paper topics can vary greatly and can examine the use of media and race, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, sexuality, disabilities, First Nations relations, and the environment. However both Shanahan and Clare agree that there is no ideal paper. The conference aims to be as open as possible, enabling submissions to craft the conference rather than letting the conference dictate the nature of the submissions.
The conference is partly a reaction to false and destructive information provided by media outlets. “When I look at the American media I see a system where there is no productive debate, there is no productive forum. One side has established talking points and they talk amongst people who are already of their persuasion,” Shanahan explained.
“Equity and Media” will reach out to students who may not have previously considered themselves active in the dialogue surrounding equity. Clare added that, “we can change the formula of a general conference…because sometimes conferences can be alienating for people who don’t know too much about the subject or [who] may not have the academic vernacular to participate.” Shanahan explained, “It’s really an event for everyone. …It is in the spirit of McGill to promote tolerance, anti-oppression ,and the idea of equality.”
Shanahan and Clare both hope that the conference will continue into the future. Clare explained that, “the mantra that we are going with throughout the whole entire committee is that we want what we are doing now to continue.”
“Equity and Media” is being held March 25 and 26 at the Thomson House, and submissions are due Feburary 1. Go to ssmu.mcgill.ca/about/ssmu-equity for more information.