If accusations of an undemocratic electoral process weren’t enough, there were individual recounts that described a conspiracy against Muslim women by the SCSU.
By: Daniela Mallarino, Editor
Are these stories simply the words of bitter and defeated political opponents? Or are these truly women who were prosecuted because of their faith, and pushed to solitude and resignation?
The Underground spoke to a variety of past Board Directors and SCSU executives, (whose names have been concealed for privacy purposes), all of whom described the internal workings of the union as a bloody, dirty, and decadent warzone. Some described various events and acts of ‘micro-aggression’ against board members, mostly Muslim women, who were in turn encouraged to resign. But this doesn’t seem to amount to the grand conspiracy covering social media.
It’s true discrimination, and prejudice, come in many different forms and ‘micro-aggressions’ such as the shifting of agendas and barring members from speaking certainly create an unnecessarily tense work environment. However, the Board of Directors that reported this, didn’t meet the basic requirements to remain part of the Board of Directors such as attending board meetings and commissions. But as one past board member pointed out: there is a difference between being invited to meetings, and being able to contribute. Do they include different members in their team because they want to irradiate diversity or because they value and respect different opinions?
At the same time, there are various testimonies claiming that board members, mainly Muslim women, weren’t included in the listserv – the email chain that informs board members of important meetings and events. But with so many events and activities, it is hard to believe, that in the 21st century, our beloved student union is incapable of including every Board Director on their mailing list.
“The SCSU is a fight between identities and ethnicities, and Muslim student’s requests – especially women – weren’t taken as seriously as the rest.” A damning charge laid by Armaan Sahgal, the 2017-2018 first year representative. He said that they were not taken accountable during meetings and that their needs were often diminished. He also suggests that the “SCSU is mostly just identity politics”. Which would entail that political positions, hence, decisions inside the SCSU, are based on race, religion or social backgrounds.
What troubles me then, is the question of, where does your identity synthesize with that association? If you’re a Muslim woman, are your pressing issues important to the Muslim community, because they’re issues that represent your body of students, or ones that are close to you?
The Muslim community on campus was very explicit on their requests concerning the multi- faith praying room. They connected with the SCSU asking for more supplies to accommodate more people in the room, since they use it frequently. Unfortunately, as some past board members (who chose to remain anonymous) explain, another member of the Union, from a different religion, jumped in the conversation.
He argued that renovations including new barriers in SL-281 would only benefit one group of students on campus when ultimately, this was a room for everyone.
While it is true that Muslim students utilize the spaces much more than students of other faiths for various religious activities, there is no religious jurisdiction over the wheeled barriers that can be moved if needed by other faith groups. SL-281 is also open 24 hrs, and is frequented numerous times a day by UTSC’s high number of Muslims, so it is not as through the resources would be going to waste.
It is also worth mentioning that as the funding is no longer being obstructed, renovations have begun on both SL-281 and SL-271 to make the spaces more accomodating for all individuals with a carpet and altar in SL-271, and new barriers in SL-281 thanks to the VP Equity Chemi Lhamo.
Were the requests from the Muslim community denied, and not considered a priority in the 2017-2018 year? Yes, that seems clear. But was this due to explicit discrimination against the particular group? No.
The issue seems to be one that is even more problematic.
It’s the confirmation of hierarchies inside the SCSU, and the eventual issue of converging identities. It’s the realization that diversity might only be a marketing term, since ideas are not equally heard inside the Union. Further, it is also a confirmation that political actions, and taking sides in the SCSU, can sometimes have dire consequences. The reason why these women were targeted is not due to the common faith of Islam, but rather that they were politically opposed to a key political ally of the Union. One with a tight grip on the funds.
This group of individuals leave behind important questions, and an important legacy. A legacy that gives us incentive, as students, to challenge how power in our community is managed. And How members of our campus are sometimes disregarded. In this political arena, the greatest weapon is silence.
Let’s hope silence isn’t on the SCSU agenda this year.