On 2 March 2011, it was brought to the attention of the SSMU Equity Officers that two commentary pieces were published online on The Prince Arthur Herald in regards to an Equity Report. After reviewing them, the Equity Officers found misleading and inaccurate information in the piece by Jonathan McDaniel, “SSMU Equity Committee Condemns Actions of QPIRG Board Member,” and the piece by Brendan Steven, “A Victory Against Political Bullying at McGill.” The Equity Officers unanimously decided to write a response to the articles to clarify any misunderstandings that may have arisen.
In October of last year, the Equity Officers received an Equity Complaint regarding events that took place in McConnell Engineering involving members of the QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign and a QPIRG Board Member. In our investigations, we reviewed past minutes from the QPIRG Board and found no evidence of Board support for the actions of Ritts. This is why, although the complaint was initially filed against QPIRG as a whole, the respondent was amended to only one member of the Board, Maddie Ritts. She has been cooperative and upfront about her involvement in the events in McConnell. To clarify, no action is currently being considered against QPIRG in any way or form.
In his commentary piece, McDaniel puts forward the claim that the report was in regards to “executives.” However, we made it clear in our report that the respondent is an individual. Therefore to imply otherwise is inaccurate and misleading. Throughout McDaniel’s commentary piece there is consistent mention of racism. Please note that the report assessment never addressed any issues of racism because there was insufficient corroborating evidence of the events. To quote the McDaniel article, “After blockading the table, several QPIRG members called members of the opt-out campaign ‘f—ing rich white boys’ among other slurs.”
In our interviews with members of the opt-out campaign, it was established that they were unable to either identify or name the individual involved in this. That is, Ritts was never considered party to this. As such, the Equity Officers did not respond to this aspect of the complaint. To make the claim that a QPIRG Board member said “f—ing rich white boy” is unverifiable. To quote our report correctly: “The use of the term ‘F*cking rich White boy’ is discriminatory and infantilizing. However, it is unclear who said this to whom. As such, no action will be taken in regards to this.”
Furthermore, the phrase “acts of racism and violence” is not a quote from the Equity Officers but in fact a claim made by the appellant who submitted the Equity Complaint. To clear up any misunderstanding, our recommendation was not based on Article 3 but specifically: “ii. Personal and professional integrity; v. Respect for personal and Society property.”
The premature publication of the Equity Report by Brendan Steven compromises the current ongoing process and undermines the values of SSMU Equity. The Equity Reports deals predominantly with the SSMU Equity Policy and assesses whether any aspect of the policy has been violated. This Equity Report makes recommendations and compliance with the recommendations is the determining factor which “finalizes” the report. Any recommendations given by our body can only be considered final if both the appellant and the respondent follow through with the recommendations. Both the appellant and the respondent have the right to discuss the final report with the Equity Officers for the purposes of clarification and further information. Additionally, any specific action against Ritts or QPIRG cannot be taken without referral to the SSMU Legislative Council and further discussion with the respondent.
Furthermore, the act of prematurely releasing the report disrespects the process of equity, and is a violation of an individual’s right to privacy. Consequently it can be interpreted as an act conducted in bad faith. The Equity Officers meanwhile recognize the importance of confidentiality and the need to adequately inform members of the Society of the rationale behind a particular decision—especially when an incident has been vastly discussed within the public realm. We also believe that the verdicts of the Officers should be just and bear public scrutiny.
In this light, given that the current Equity Policy does not sufficiently address issues of confidentiality, the Equity Officers are in the process of drafting and recommending changes to the Policy and presenting them before the Legislative Council. We welcome your input in moving forward. Meanwhile we hope all discourse on the reports will remain respectful and be conducted in an atmosphere which fosters dialogue and reconciliation.
SSMU Equity Officers, 2010-2011