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Ottawa News

Carleton student government amends discrimination policy

CSU MeetingBy GARRETT BARRY

The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) council voted yesterday to approve controversial amendments to their “Discrimination on Campus Policy” by a vote of 19-7.

The amendments removed a clause that banned pro-life groups from using student union resources and funding. It also removed reference to any specific group banned under the policy in favour of more universal language.

Vanessa Chipi, an Arts and Social Sciences councillor who introduced the motion, said the previous policy was not representing all students.

“The changes to this policy were a long time coming. It needed to be changed. The policy essentially was discriminatory towards people that had views that were outside of the norm.”

“CUSA [should have] the ability to protect every single student. Every student is a fee-paying member into CUSA, there’s no reason why they should be discriminated against.”

The policy still contains clauses that will restrict activities of groups on campus that “advocates for and/or perpetuate violence and discrimination” based on race, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation and gender identity. But opponents to the amendments said the new language introduced to the policy weakens protections for minority groups.

Previously, the policy banned specific groups such as the KKK and the White Aryan Resistance.

An open letter against the motion, which councillor Kaylee Cameron said was signed by almost 200 people, said the proposed changes will create “hostile environments”

“It’s clear that this motion, by removing [some] long established safeguards, takes a dangerous step away from the supportive and safe community that Carleton students have fought so long to build.”

The policy now specifically says that CUSA will “work to prevent groups or persons who promote hate or discrimination from coming to Carleton University.” Chipi says the motion “in no way, shape or form” weakens the current policy on discrimination.

Many students and councillors voiced concern about a particular clause in the amended policy which states that all CUSA employees “will encourage positive and respectful discussion of all opinions and beliefs without bias or discrimination against those with differing views or opinions.”

Sarah McCue, the program coordinator at CUSA’s Food Centre says that clause could force employees to entertain discriminatory viewpoints in conversation and take away reserved spaces for minority groups if it was followed.

“Those spaces are something that’s really valued by communities. The [women’s and trans only space] is used every single day by folks who need to go in there for breast feeding, just to talk, for peer support, for prayer space.”

CUSA vice president Michael De Luca said at one point that the proposed changes would not effect service centres, but when asked again made no comment.

Currently, CUSA policies state that the vice president of student services, Fatima Hassan, has “the authority” over all CUSA service centres. She is responsible to make sure the services are “responsive to the changing needs” of students.

Hassan did not respond to interview requests.

Under the changed policy, the student union will also create an oversight council which monitors the materials used by all CUSA-approved student groups. The CUSA Oversight committee has the authority to make any CUSA student group stop using any material which the committee finds inappropriate.

The committee members will be decided in January.

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