By Olivia McLeod
When protesters paraded into a University of Toronto lecture hall where Dr. Warren Farrell was hosting a Men’s Issues Awareness event last December, Sarah Santhosh didn’t see a peaceful protest: she saw “closemindedness” and “lots of hate.”
The controversial lecture and its fiery opposition inspired Santhosh to create an official men’s issues group at Ryerson, which she said is tentatively called the Ryerson Association for Equality. The group would offer a forum for students to broadly discuss men’s issues such as dealing with mental health, male youth violence, misogyny, as well as gender disadvantages in education, the workplace and custody battles.
“If you really are for equality you wouldn’t be so close-minded about this, and if you do have problems with it we’d love to talk about it,” said Santhosh, a second-year biology student. “Universities are supposed to be places where any and all ideas are accepted and discussed. Nothing should be too taboo for discussion.”
In a September 2012 issue of The Eyeopener, Marwa Hamad, vice president equity at the Ryerson Students’ Union, said marginalized or underprivileged student members should be the focus of equity service groups on campus.
“Would it make sense to make a straight people centre or an able body equity group?” Hamad said.
To gain student group status, the Student Groups Committee at Ryerson has to approve Santhosh’s project. The application has several requirements, which include gathering a list of 20 signatures from Ryerson students interested in seeing the group established, as well as finding three students willing to take on executive responsibilities.
It must also propose a constitution outlining its objective, structure and membership as well as pitch five ideas for student events, which Santhosh said could include hosting gender studies guest speakers, men’s issues film screenings as well as a book or article discussion club.
According to Santhosh, each requirement is nearly complete. She and her fellow executives, Argir Argirov and Anjana Rao, plan to submit the paperwork to the campus groups administrator, Leatrice O’Neill, on Tuesday. Once the Student Groups Committee approves the group’s proposal, the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Board of Directors will make the final decision on whether to grant the Ryerson Association for Equality student group status.
The group will welcome men and women, as it does not wish to advocate the rights of either gender over the other.
“We are aiming to focus on men’s issues because we noted a lack of student groups that specifically address that,” she said via email. “All we want is to help open up civil discourse and raise awareness of issues that may relate to all Ryerson students.”