To the Carleton Community,
The Council of the Graduate Students’ Association would like to express its opposition to the Report of the Commission on Inter-Religious, Inter-Ethnic, and Inter-Racial Relations on Campus. The GSA Council has voted to join those in our community who oppose this Report due to concerns with many elements of both the process and final outcomes of the Commission.
The GSA has a long history of leading and supporting efforts that work towards a more inclusive campus. Campaigns and events such as the Taskforce on Campus Racism have demonstrated this. We were pleased to join the Commission in its original mandate to “contribute to a better context for dialogue and understanding on the Carleton campus and in the surrounding community”. However, the Commission has failed to meet the conditions of its own mandate.
Specifically, the Commission failed to create a better context for dialogue when it chose to only listen to two groups—out of the many—who expressed concerns relating to inter-religious, inter-ethnic, and inter-racial relations on campus. The Report fails to effectively justify its selective focus on only two groups, and instead suggests that this deliberate choice was the neutral result of a campus wide survey. However, the actual survey results included a wide range of people who feel less than satisfied with their experiences at Carleton. An unjustified focus on only two groups is the first of a series of methodological issues in the Report. The Report also fails to explain the use of a second survey for just one of the two groups selected as the foci of the Commission. Additionally, the Report does not account for the selective distribution of the second survey.
We know our students, staff, and faculty face many forms of oppression every day. It is truly unfortunate that—as a result of its failures—the Report has no credibility to speak on behalf of the diverse community at Carleton University. For example, the GSA has heard complaints from Jewish and other racialised students who feel their voices were not included in the Report.
As graduate students, we take the reputation of this university and the quality of research it presents to the community very seriously. We are often immersed in discussions on the importance of intellectually rigorous research. We strive to meet the standards of defensible research in our diverse fields and it is our wish that any Commission representing Carleton strive to do the same.
The Report critiques the GSA, stating: “CUSA and the GSA have, in the past, taken political positions that are anti-Israel”. We must counter this false claim. The GSA is not against any country. We are a member-driven organization that – through rigorous debate and democratic decision-making—takes positions on a wide range of issues relevant to our membership. The GSA has taken positions regarding issues facing students all around the world. We have taken positions on post-secondary education here in Canada; we continue to speak out against the two percent funding cap on the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) for Aboriginal students. We have also taken positions on post-secondary education in other countries, such as calling for improved access to education for Palestinian and Iranian students. We do not believe taking positions on public policy in any country means we are against that country and/or its populace. We are concerned that the Commission has conflated graduate students’ engagement with complex issues as our opposition to entire nations or peoples. This variety of faulty logic could act to silence engagement and dialogue, directly undermining the mandate of the Commission, the University, and the GSA’s mandate for democratic debate and decision-making.
We engage with the issues in this Report not to be anti-Carleton, but to strive to improve our campus and our community. It is out of care for Carleton that we add our voice to those in our community who see this Report as problematic and harmful to the creation of an inclusive space for dialogue. The President of Carleton expressed her support for this Report when she emailed the entire campus community providing a link to the Report. Based on the issues in the above letter—among many others—we call for the President to withdraw her support of this problematic document. It is our hope that once the President has withdrawn her support, the broader Carleton community can begin the long process of working together on complex issues of Inter-Religious, Inter-Ethnic, and Inter-Racial Relations on Carleton’s campus.
The Graduate Students’ Association, Carleton University