SSMU’s third Strategic Summit took place last Friday, with discussion focusing on how to promote equity and diversity within the McGill community.
The Strategic Summits are an initiative implemented this year by SSMU with the goal of facilitating discussion on various topics relevant to the McGill student body. Previous summits have focused on tuition hikes and student consultation.
SSMU’s Equity Committee moderated Friday’s summit. The committee’s mandate, as outlined on their website, is “to confront historical and current inequities at McGill through active engagement and public education.”
According to SSMU Equity Outreach Coordinator Ryan Thom, “the strategic summits are an effort on the part of SSMU to really gauge what the spectrum of opinions and ideas and, perhaps frustrations, are from the student body.”
SSMU VP University Affairs Emily Clare and former Equity Commissioner, added that, “strategic summits are a platform for students to get together and talk comprehensively about one issue.”
The summit lasted for five hours, during which students, members of the administration, and representatives from other SSMU committees discussed issues surrounding equal opportunities for those of various races, genders, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses. Issues were discussed on a global scale, as well as in the context of the local community, particularly concerning the inclusivity of McGill’s current policies and possible amendments to them.
According to Janina Grabs, a U3 Political Science student, “in a rather intimate setting, [the summit] gives you the opportunity to talk to a lot of people very directly that normally you don’t get the opportunity to [talk to].”
The most recent challenge for the Equity Committee presented itself at SSMU’s 4Floors Halloween party on October 27, where certain ethnic costumes – such as Indian princesses and people taping their eyes to appear East Asian – created an environment that offended members of McGill’s student body.
Before Halloween, the Equity Committee circulated posters depicting people of various ethnicities and corresponding stereotypical costumes, which read, “We are a culture, not a costume.” Despite this campaign, there remained a noticeable number of ethnically offensive and stereotypical costumes at the event this year.
One of the main goals of Friday’s summit was to discuss possible solutions to this problem, and to increase dialogue on issues of equity and diversity in general.
Among proposed solutions was the inclusion of a statement in class syllabi to promote mutual respect among McGill’s diverse student body – a project that the Equity Committee is currently working on with the administration.
According to Thom, “Policy itself is always a work in progress. We have different ideas, but there are always going to be points of contention.”