We, the Northern Women’s Centre Collective, are writing a response to the “Open Letter to the Student Body” you wrote that was distributed throughout the University and in Over The Edge Newspaper. Although understanding your frustration with students not signing up for various volunteer roles in student governance on campus, we believe you could have addressed this issue in a much more constructive manner. Whether it was intended or not, the impact of your words has been to create additional barriers for individuals, particularly, Indigenous students on campus, in terms of them stepping forward for these voluntary roles.
Instead of writing this letter and distributing it around the campus, perhaps it would have been more beneficial if you had presented your thoughts and concerns to the NUGSS Board, thereby providing a more positive and collaborative approach to addressing this issue. For example, perhaps the NUGSS board could have an open forum in the Winter Garden asking students about the challenges and barriers they face in volunteering for these positions. By doing this, rather than criticizing the student body and singling out the individuals for the Women’s representative and Aboriginal representative in your letter, you could have had a discussion on the reasons for why individuals do not volunteer for these roles. Rather than using a “blame and shame” approach, a more collaborative and consultative approach would have been the better route to obtaining positive outcomes. We think it would have been far more constructive if we had come at this from the perspective of understanding the barriers and challenges that some students face and then addressing our recruitment efforts with these barriers and challenges in mind.
In terms of the Women’s Representative position itself, I want to say that we have had many young women who have stepped up to take on this role and they have been very successful at it. Even if a Women’s Representative has less experience than others than we have had in the past, that is okay because they will have information and support from a group of women who are feminist activists associated with the Northern Women’s Centre and/or community, i.e. don’t rule people out because they are seemingly inexperienced or less knowledgeable.
To close, your suggestion that the positions for the Women’s and Aboriginal representatives are not needed completely disregards challenges that individuals face when looking into volunteering for these positions. You state that the student body is apathetic, yet we have not seen any attempt to try and discern why there is a lack of individuals voting or volunteering for various roles in student governance. We feel that if you took the time to respectfully discuss with students their reasons for not voting or volunteering for these roles, you would find that there are multiple barriers that prevent the involvement you are looking for. We need to know what these are so we can move forward in creating an inclusive recruitment strategy to encourage participation in the new Equity Council.
We believe an apology would go a long way in mending the fences that have been broken through your “Open Letter to the Student Body.” We respectfully ask you to consider providing an apology.
The Northern Women’s Centre Collective