Equity groupies pose with NAC president Joan Grant-Cummings (second from left) at a recent Ryerson event

Bringing equity to Ryerson

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By Mary Kiwanuka

After a year of inactivity, RyeSAC’s Advisory Committee on Equity held its first general meeting last week. The focus was equity on campus and featured guest speaker Joan Grant-Cummings, the president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC).

“[Cummings] really makes the links between how women are discriminated against, as people of colour, as gays and lesbians, as students with disabilities and brings that all together,” said Gord Tanner, RyeSAC VP education, who organized the event.

The committee’s mandate is to “promote initiatives and activities that raise awareness of issues in the areas of discrimination, lifestyle, prejudice, ethnicity and the values of cultural diversity.”

RyeSAC established the committee at the end of last year. Michael Wiltshire, RyeSAC VP finance at the time, said the committee is meant to address “how the student government handles the fact they represent a multicultural campus.”

“RyeSAC spends $30,000 on orientation to pay for bands and those kinds of things. But what type of music to they get — alternative rock. They basically leave it up to the student groups to deal with their own culture.”

Unfortunately, RyeSAC executives admit they had little motivation to take on the rask they inherited.

“Throughout the year, there was no one person that came forward and said that there were interested in pursuing this committee and setting it up,” explained Tanner. “So it sat for probably six months and then Ricardo came forth.”

Ricardo Tomlinson, who presently chairs the committee, used to be public relations officer of RACA (Ryerson African-Caribbean Association) and was working in Ryerson Community Services. He was asked to join the committee on a volunteer, part-time basis.

In order to keep executives from passing the buck next year, Tomlinson hopes the committee will have an equity commissioner on RyeSAC’s board to ensure the committee can carry out its’ mandate from the beginning of the year.

Some of the problems resulted from people not understanding what the committee is for. “A lot of people don’t realize the committee is for them. It’s for everyone, not just women and minorities.”

Tomlinson hopes the committee will give Ryerson students and opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and backgrounds while fighting for equity on campus. He points out a contentious issue he hopes will be addressed, now that the committee is on its feet.

“RyeSAC did not have any events for Black History Month. The question is should RACA? But RyeSAC had something for St. Patty’s Day,” said Tomlinson. “This committee will allow us to communicate better.”

 

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