The Carleton University Students’ Association, Local 1 of the Canadian Federation of Students, has decided to stop fundraising as part of the national Shinerama program.
Shinerama is a national event involving students from almost every Canadian university. During the beginning of September, as part of orientation activities, students leave their campuses and shine things to raise funds which are used by the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for treatment and research to defeat the disease.
Cystic fibrosis is a terrible fatal lung disease which kills most of its victims in their 20s and 30s. It is diagnosed in both men and women at an equal rate and affects people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. However, it is more common in those of white European and Askhenazi Jewish descent than other groups.
Last night, CUSA decided to stop participating in Shinerama because “Cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men” and it was therefore not “[as] inclusive as possible.” (Read the exact motion here)
The vote was 17 in favour of the motion and only 2 opposed. With this, CUSA has officially declared that any disease which strikes down only white males is not inclusive enough to be worthy of resources to combat it.
(It is unclear which of the two demographic details is more important in the decision; the “whiteness” of the disease or the “maleness” of the disease.)
I’m at a lost where to start with my critique of this decision, so I’ll begin with the procedural aspects.
The motion was presented at the CUSA meeting with no prior notice. However, according to CUSA councilor Nick Bergamini, the executive were prepared for the discussion and argued in favour of the ban claiming that a former student felt hurt by the non-inclusive nature of CF.
While this may be the normal operating practice of CUSA, it is not the proper way to operate a deliberative governing council.
Councilors should be aware of motions well in advance. The time between the announcement of a motion and the vote on that motion is to be used for research and consultation. CUSA councilors were negligent in allowing a motion to appear on their agenda without prior notice. They neglected to research the motion, they neglected to consult the student body and that neglect resulted in the passage of a poorly written motion, supported by false information.
A simple visit to Wikipedia would have resulted in the death of this motion. Sadly, CUSA councilors acted recklessly in their pursuit of political correctness.
Then there is the question of why was this motion brought to Council?
The choice of charity is an operational decision. The motion as written was an operational directive. A legislative body should be focused on policy and pass motions which offer broad policy direction.
For example, a motion creating a charity policy with a statement to the effect that CUSA donates to charities which impact diverse backgrounds within the Ottawa community is proper policy. Saying CUSA only gives to the United Way is an operational directive.
The fact that CUSA council is micromanaging individual events indicating a problem within their system of governance. With the largest executive of any student union in Canada, these types of day-to-day details should not be in front of the entire council. This event should be the purview of either the VP student life or Carleton spirit committee. Why do Carleton students pay for a bloated executive if Council is micromanaging anyway?
This brings us to the facts of the motion.
They were wrong. Nothing more to be said there.
CUSA has been rushing to backtrack tonight and engaging in the exercise of doublespeak. First, the motion was a way of starting a dialogue. Then it was that if the motion was voted down, the discussion could not occur. Later it became, we voted to change the charity and the motion had nothing to do with the whereas clauses. By the time you read this, the doublespeak will have changed. (You can follow the doublespeak on Facebook by following this link.)
The real question moving forward is how are Carleton students going to react? Clearly, they need to do something. Today, years of effort by Carleton to remove its reputation as “Last Chance U” have been erased. CUSA has shown itself to be the least-intelligent student union in the country and that says a lot, since they are in league with the censorship-loving York Federation of Students. How students react will determine if the damage can be undone.
If students only complain about the decision, but do nothing to remove the incompetent student politicians who passed it, Carleton’s poor reputation will be re-entrenched. However, if students do remove those responsible for this outrage, it will go a long way to remove the stigma they are all wearing today.