A group of students were left disappointed at last Friday's Senate meeting when their questions regarding the University's response to the "Western Lives Matter" and "no means yes, yes means anal" incidents went unanswered. 

The questions by the group calling themselves the Organizing Equality Students Coalition were read out by graduate students' senator Cliff Davidson.

In September, the phrase "yes means no, no means anal" was found chalked on a student window off-campus. The University's initial response to the incident was considered lukewarm and Western later apologized for its slow reaction.

The "Western Lives Matter" incident saw the phrase written on a banner on the original Homecoming celebrations in October. Western was quick to denounce the banner as racist and investigated the students in the photo, ultimately finding they had not breached the student code of conduct. 

President Amit Chakma, who chairs Senate meetings, said the questions could not be answered at the meeting and needed to be submitted ahead of time. 

“The statements that the University made in regards to the two incidents had several problems with them," said Shahad Rashid, a media studies graduate student and member of the coalition. “One of which was students were not consulted and it didn’t really satisfy either side."

Rashid said she and the coalition believe Western's administration has been reactive and failed to follow-up with students to have conversations and come up with mutual solutions. 

Three questions were posed to Senate as part of the group's statement: 

-Is administration willing to allocate resources to students to discuss issues?

-Is administration willing to provide physical spaces so students can meet and discuss?

-Is administration willing to enthusiastically support students?

"The controversy is Chakma’s rejection to answer the questions and his insistence that it must be submitted ahead of time," Rashid said.

Rashid and the individuals she spoke with after the Senate meeting were concerned with Chakma's response and did not understand why he didn't answer the questions.

Irene Birrell, the university secretary, clarified Senate's policy on questions brought forward at meetings.

"If senators send us a question or an issue for discussion two days ahead of the meeting, so on the Wednesday, we will then do our level best, we being the senior administration in my office, to make sure that there is someone there that can answer the question on the floor," Birell said. 

Birell noted that questions not submitted in advance may still be answered at Senate as long as the appropriate person within administration is present to answer it.

"If there's no one there that can actually answer the question, then we ask that it to be brought forward to the next meeting so we can have someone there to answer it," Birell said.

Student senator Harry Orbach-Miller commented on Chakma's response.

"I'm going to give Dr. Chakma the benefit of the doubt that this was not done with malicious intent but to ensure that this issue receives the consideration and discussion it rightfully deserves by all senators at our next meeting," Orbach-Miller said.

Rashid confirmed Davidson is submitting the questions in advance and hopes they will be answered at the next Senate meeting on Dec. 8.

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Rita is a returning news editor for volume 110. She's a fourth-year political science student, minoring in film studies. Contact her at rita@westerngazette.ca or at Twitter.com/RitaRahmati.

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