Friday, November 26, 2010

RE: Withholding of Student Fees


I am writing as a very concerned alumnus. The Carleton University decision to withhold the levies of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), and the Carleton Academic Student Government (CASG) has done much to garner Carleton negative media attention and raise the concern of students and alumni alike. 

Please understand that there are legal, moral, and political issues at stake in your unfounded decision to withhold these fees. With the exception of CASG, the student unions are separately incorporated non-profit organizations. The denial of their fees that you collect in trust is illegal and the students’ unions have appropriately sought council and served you with legal notice. Does your administration believe it is appropriate to expend student money twice for the sake of this debate? Student money will fund both the University and the students’ unions as the unions seek what is legally theirs. To counter your inaccurate claims of financial mismanagement the student unions, in an act of prudence, have gone as far as to publish their already public financial audits in the Carleton student-written newspaper The Charlatan.  Students’ do not want to go to court, but they are unwilling to allow Carleton University to oppress the student body and silence dissent. 

Morally, this move disserves the nature of academia. Universities are supposed to be a pillar of free thought and a place of learning and idea sharing. The separate incorporation and free activity of the students’ unions allows for a plurality of ideas concerning the best direction for Carleton University to be realised and advocated. You do have to agree with the student unions, but you do have to support their autonomy and right to a dissenting view on any issue. To do anything less is to mock the academic freedom every university espouses. 

Carleton University’s actions are akin to the government response to the peaceful protests that took place at the Toronto G20. There, the rights Canadians held to free speech and assembly were systematically withdrawn as to quell dissenting views of the global economic agenda. From that event, a scene of hundreds of non-violent Canadians enclosed and arrested while singing our national anthem will forever mar Canada’s reputation as a leader in human rights. Similarly, Carleton’s efforts to ratify a new governance agreement where the students’ unions would be held accountable to the University is but a thinly veiled attempt minimize the organizing efforts of students at times when they disagree with University decisions.  Again akin the Toronto G20, this has caused Carleton a great deal of public relations malaise. I do not enjoy when Jeff Sachs, an author and economist I have the utmost respect for, and Jack Layton, a powerful opposition MP, publicly denounce my alma mater for their disrespect of student rights.

A university is nothing without its students, and students are stronger together, through their student unions. These unions are accountable to the students through public elections and independent financial audits. These organizations thrive, create student jobs, inform students of pressing issues, provide integral services, create diverse and engaging programming, and make Carleton a better university.  The student unions aren’t able to fulfil these goals when the University administration withholds their student fees in an unjust, immoral, and illegal fashion.

Your Board of Governors is set to meet Monday the 29th of November, and I’m sure there will be a student presence at this meeting. It is my hope that you will hear their concerns and disengage from the politics of silencing student dissent. The appropriate course of action for the Board of Governors is to release the fees owed to the students’ unions as well as provide compensation for the losses incurred by the students’ unions during the fee withholding. Put simply: free the fees.

Sincerely,




Thursday, November 4, 2010

RE: The Challenge: Cutthroat, Gone Too Far

To Whom It May Concern, 

I am writing as a concerned MTV viewer. I just finished watching episode 4 of The Challenge: Cutthroat. I have never been so disgusted and disappointed with MTV programming. If you are unaware, the Gulag (elimination challenge) shackled opposing competitors by the neck to a table. The host, TJ Lavin, then proceeded to provide the competitors with flyswatters with which to hit each other in the face with as hard as possible in alternating turns. The flyswatters were then upgraded to a heavier model for the second and third rounds of competition. 

Your programming represents some of the darkest aspects of society. How are people to supposed to respect rights to personal security when your network encourages making a spectacle of their violation? The themes of the movie Hostel are echoed through your choices. That film showed wealthy businesspeople paying to painfully murder a stranger. The Challenge: Cutthroat profited off of suffering that was by no means an expression of sportsmanship, intellect, or competition. 

Simply, your programming went too far. Dystopian literature and films have described a twisted reality TV world where viewers observe suicides. For the same reasons this is wrong, so were your creative choices. Violence and suffering were promoted for MTV’s profits, and I believe this is a travesty that ought not to be repeated. I implore you to take the appropriate actions of issuing a public apology followed by the adoption and public announcement of a non-violent reality TV programming policy. 

I will be vocal about this effort, and I hope your sense of duty will convince your decision makers that the actions suggested are prudent and necessary.  If this alone will not, disappointedly, I would hope further public response will.  


Sincerely, 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

RE: Image

Hi,

I am writing in regards to the image available on your website at http://www.consentissexy.org/index.php/welcome/



This image is very troubling. As an organizer for the Canadian Federation of Students' "No Means No" campaign that is also organized around themes of consent and ending gender based and sexual violence, I was deeply offended by your allusion that only some women deserve respect. The rhetoric you employed creates a dichotomy that many (uninformed) people use to justify actions against people who aren't 'respectable'. An effective campaign would reiterate that all people deserve respect and that their consent is valued and mandated.

A great example of this being expressed comes from the Scottish "Not Ever" ad, available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h95-IL3C-Z8. The dress, speech, and actions of a person in no way mean that they have any less right to their security. No one asks to be raped, not even those touted 'sluts', or 'whores'.




I would also like to note how I have opted to used the term person rather than woman in my writings. I have done so to address the universal nature of issues surrounding consent. Sexual violence happens in queer as well as straight communities. A heteronormative approach to a consent campaign only further marginalizes queer persons experiencing sexual violence.

The "No Means No" campaigns I was involved with made these points abundantly clear as to have to most impact on people's actual behaviour. I strongly suggest you adopt similar strategies and retract the problematic image from your campaign.

In solidarity,


(Updates in commentary)

Friday, September 3, 2010

RE: Work-Study Program Restructuring.

Dear Board of governors, 

I am writing as concerned alumni; I recently and proudly graduated from Carleton, but I have become aware of shocking news concerning the restructuring of the work-study student assistance/employment program.

I have interacted in many personal and professional levels with the work-study program. As an approved work-study applicant, an administrator with Carleton’s Foot Patrol, and a friend to many employed outside academic departments. These employments serve many as useful, practical, and meaningful opportunities for a diverse pool of talented students in financial need.  

My experience with work-study program has seen the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) do amazing work through their 9 service centres (BECAMPS, ISC, ASC, Womyn’s Centre, Foot Patrol, CDAC, GLBTQ, Rec Hall, and Food Centre). At Foot Patrol, we hired for work-study dispatchers who were an integral aspect of keeping consistent service. This contributes to campus safety and helps many students feel safe on Carleton's camups in light of acts of sexual violence that stain Carleton's history and present. The Food Center was open longer to students in need of emergency assistance because of a work-study position, and the advocacy efforts of all centres were advanced by student leaders who sought experience. 

CUSA is not alone in feeling this loss; Carleton Academic Student Government (CASG), the Rideau River Residence Association (RRRA), and the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) have been unfairly disadvantaged by the decision to restrict work-study positions to academic departments. Best for students and the university as a whole, I urge you to review this practice and reinstate work-study eligibility to non-academic departments.


Sincerely,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RE: Student Award. (from Venus Envy Ottawa)

Hi Shelley, 

I’m just writing to express a concern regarding your bursary application. I am very much appreciative and supportive of the equity efforts your business promotes throughout the city of Ottawa including your scholarship program. However, I find myself at odds knowing that a progressive business like yours would adhere to traditional gender construction within its own practices.  The eligibility criterion states that the application is “open to all women and trans people studying in Ottawa at any level of education.”

This is problematic for many reasons. Foremost, I believe the structural approach to education is one that we have seen fail time and time again. Identifying ‘problem groups’ and providing them with support is only a band-aid solution for the greater issue of systemic inaccessibility to post-secondary education. In truth the most discriminated against students are those who are not Canadian citizens. International students pay 3-5 times the tuition fees of a domestic student and are not covered by Canadian healthcare; albeit, this is not the crux of my argument.

Education in Canada is one of the plains on which we are nearing gender (well sex, but stats can is a whole other kettle of fish) equality. Though men and women students seem to continue some aspects of traditional division of labor, women do make up the majority of persons granted degrees in Canada since at least 2005. (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/100714/t100714b1-eng.htm)

It too must be noted that students come from diverse backgrounds and may face compounding and intersectional disadvantages in attending college or university. It is for this reason that I argue gender should not be a point of criteria in your application.  Rawls’ second principle of justice posits that a society’s level of justice must be measured by the conditions of the poorest member. This member existence is pervasive of gender, religion, race, place of origin and all other categories constructed to divide us.  Adapting the application to be open to all gender identities achieves the goal of moving away from the use of gender as an organizing principle and allows the award to be given to the most deserving applicant.

I would like to take time to again thank you and your business for all your social justice efforts, and to implore that you re-examine your award eligibility for future postings.

Sincerely,

RE: Public Inquiry on Police Tactics During the G20 (sent July 6)

Dear Mr. Moore, MP Fundy Royal, 

I am writing to you as a concerned constituent. The police tactics used at the g20 meeting in Toronto were at best unacceptable. Numerous stories have to come to light about the abuse of police powers and the failure of the Canadian government to uphold the rights of its citizens. 

Police used arrests and detentions to arbitrarily confine peaceful protestors and subject them to lengthy and unconstitutional periods of time without access to legal counsel, food, water, and medical aid. This was not the Canada I grew up in. This was not a place where the citizens had no reason to fear our law enforcement officers. 

As the son of an RCMP officer I held a higher opinion of law enforcement in Canada. I was myself in an RCMP youth group during my school days. However, I had the privilege of being one of the peaceful demonstrators in Toronto during the g20, and I have been forever changed. I saw a Canadian city, one selected to represent Canada to the world, transformed into a space where rights were suspended. Therein, arrest, search, and seizure were arbitrary; detention was cruel and unnecessary; and I felt for the first time in my life that the police were not a presence to serve and protect the people of Canada. 

Powers of arrest and detention were inappropriately used to silence and disperse thousands of peaceful protesters. At the same time, inadequate force was used to protect the businesses of Toronto during the violent out breaks of the so called “black bloc”.  No reason seems to justify the acts taken by the security forces of the Toronto g20 summit. 

With a price tag hovering near 1 000 000 000, the Canadian public deserves to know how and why the police acted as they did. Further, as an Atlantic Canadian it is important that our people have the same access to information that those in central Canada are privy to. Canadians coast to coast deserve to know the extent to which Toronto became a police state. 

I implore you to call on your Conservative government to launch an independent public inquiry into the happenings of the g20 summit. Canadians have the right to know how their money was spent and how their rights were compromised. Anything less is an insult to your electorate.
I hope you take these concerns to heart and raise this issue with your fellow parliamentarians. 

Sincerely, 
___________________________________________________________

Response (Received July 20) 

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the protests in Toronto during the G-20.
On July 6, the Toronto Police Services (TPS) called for an Independent Civilian Review to identify any issues or concerns regarding oversight, governance, accountability, transparency, as well as communication and supervision issues arising from the multijurisdictional model of policing the G20 Summit.
Over a million flyers were distributed to Toronto households by the TPS, and these explained the need for the police to ensure security. Additionally, ads were placed in every Toronto newspaper. The same notifications were posted to the Ontario government’s e-laws website on June 16th.
The TPS were present to protect the Summit. Toronto was selected to represent Canada to the world, and any breach of the Summit perimeter would have had disastrous consequences for Canada on the international stage. This is especially true given the fact that the police recovered many deadly weapons from protesters, such as saws, bats, crossbows, hammers, and knives. The police acted to ensure the safety of the delegation.
Thank you for bringing this issue to me. I hope that this has addressed your concerns, and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office.
Sincerely,
Rob Moore, MP
Fundy Royal
_________________________________________________________________________
(Can anyone say template?)