“STUDENTS OF COLOUR” MANDATE CHALLENGED

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By Glynnis Mapp

Two fourth-year Radio and Television Arts students are concerned that media attention paid to Students of Colour in Radio and Television is shedding a negative light on the program.

Alla Gadassik and Bandana Singh worry that faculty will feel pressured to adopt biased policies. Gadassik and Singh also say they fear that the SCRT’s current mandate excludes students.

“More diversity in applications is the surest way to more diversity in the program, not to mention more bright and talented students,” Gadassik said. “But ‘Students of Colour’ does not even include all visible minorities,” she said.

“Their intentions aren’t problematic, their focus is.” “They could be called a ‘diversity group’ instead,” said Singh. “By calling themselves ‘Students of Colour,’ it separates people who may identify themselves as under-represented, but don’t exactly fit into that label,” said Singh.

Gadassik applauds SCRT’s efforts to promote media studies to high school students and to increase application rates. However, she and Singh want to meet with the SCRT and RTA faculty to address these issues.

“My main concern is the portrayal of the RTA program as a biased and exclusive program — a program that does not support cultural diversity and is in need of reform,” Gadassik said. “I believe (the group) is alienating a lot of open-minded people, who are also struggling to fit into media studies,” she said.

Saron Ghebressellassie, a second-year radio and television arts student and Students of Colour in Radio and Television representative, is surprised some students are taking issue with the group’s focus. She believes the SCRT is similar to other social groups that already exist.

“This is not a new concept,” said Ghebressellassie, “Groups like the National Society of Black Engineers, the Women in Engineering Group, the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and others have been created to deal with issues that are important to them. We’re doing just that.”

Ghebressellassie was inspired by a former RTA graduate who mentored students independently. “She was a huge inspiration for me. Not a lot of people really took the time to encourage kids like that,” said Ghebressellassie. SCRT wants to do the same, and wants to invite high school students to the TARAs, RTA’s award show, so they can see what the program is all about.

“We can’t wait to mentor students. I’m looking forward to their energy and optimistic attitudes.” Gadassik and Singh’s main concern is clear. They are worried RTA faculty would feel pressured to change their current educational initiatives in order to make the program more diverse.

Gadassik believes the current initiatives provide enough diversity to the RTA program. Both Gadassik and Singh were former members of the Course Union of Radio and Television Arts who helped organize Schmoozefest, a popular networking event, and orientation week events.

Ghebressellassie took over Gadassik’s director of communication’s position in CURTAS for this academic year and started the SCRT group shortly after she took her position. Singh has received a scholarship for minorities. She has also received acknowledgment by winning other awards not specific to race or culture. Singh is confident the RTA program is already doing enough to promote multiculturalism within the program.

“I’ve experienced discrimination before I came to the RTA program, and since I’ve been here the faculty and students have always been supportive. I don’t want to dwell on the negative experiences I’ve had in the past. That doesn’t help much,” Singh said. David Tucker, Chair of Radio and Television Arts, wants to discuss the SCRT’s mandate to get a better sense of who their target group is and what they need to encourage more students into media programs.

Tucker is aware students may be wary of the group’s mandate and confused about its impact on the current program. Tucker wants to dispel these fears. “I’m supportive of the issues that the Students of Colour group raises. “We’re living in a multicultural community and I don’t believe that to be a disadvantage at all,” he said.

Tucker is already working with the Program Advisory Committee, a group of media-savvy advisors that keep RTA faculty up-to-date on current media trends in the industry and issues affecting the media. Tucker has raised the issue of diversity and created an equity sub-committee to focus on encouraging diverse students to enrol.

“We want students of all backgrounds to consider this program as a good one. It’s something our media would only benefit from,” said Tucker, “We’d love to see more diversity in our applicants. “We’re not saying that because of your skin colour we’ll just accept you. Our application procedures are standard. We’re simply trying to get more diverse students to the door.”

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