Copyright © 2020 Federation of Students, University of Waterloo operating as Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association
A message from your president
A few weeks ago, our Students’ Council met to discuss an advocacy effort brought forward by your Vice President, Education. To say the meeting went poorly is an understatement.
Since the meeting, I have been extremely upset by the personal attacks I have seen online towards our part-time staff, our Councillors, members of RAISE, at-large members and the Executive team. WUSA does not condone the use of racist language, personal attacks, and online harassment of any student. We should all exercise compassion when engaging in critical discussions, like the one we had hoped to have that day.
As we continue to navigate this pandemic together, it’s important to remember that our home, workplace, and leisure spaces lack definition right now. There is little separation between work and personal time. With so much of our lives online, folks are turning there now more than ever for community and a sense of belonging. No matter the circumstance, attacking others online is never okay. It’s the joint responsibility of everyone to be mindful of how our words affect others. We must continue to create safe spaces online and work together to ensure all members of our Waterloo community are able to engage in discussion. Looking ahead to fall term, your Executive team are eager to ensure this does not happen again. We will be undergoing a holistic review to ensure we’re creating a safe and inclusive space for everyone.
Your Executive team first want to address what we feel has been a major misconception. Your Vice President, Education brought forward the advocacy objective at the special meeting in response to student consultation with Black student leaders on campus. We continue to speak with students from marginalized groups because we believe supporting those who are most vulnerable inevitably creates a safer campus community for all. We will continue to advocate on safety and access issues brought forward by all students.
During the special meeting, RAISE, our student-run service, was called upon to deliver additional information. This service aims to provide educational resources to our members on topics of equity, race, and inclusion. RAISE and their members did not bring forward this item at the Council meeting, nor were they involved in the process leading up to it.
Additionally, we did not properly prepare our Councillors and at-large members for the discussion which took place. Many members were confused by the format of discussion and steps were not taken to ensure everyone understood the purpose and structure of the meeting. We are working to improve our communication surrounding Council meetings and will be adopting new rules at the upcoming Students’ Council meeting this Sunday.
Your Executive have made many mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes. One mistake we would like to acknowledge is not clarifying sooner that RAISE was not involved in the purpose of the meeting. They were invited by the Executive to educate and provide additional information on the advocacy topic. We apologize to our student volunteers who felt left behind as we worked to address the situation and take action. Our volunteers lead this organization forward and we must do more to ensure their success. To ensure our volunteers feel supported moving forward, we will be conducting a review of student-run service operations and communications strategies.
We heard you.
Throughout the last few weeks your Executive took time to listen. We reviewed your emails, we met with you, and we saw your online posts. We’re hearing from a lot of you right now and will continue to make decisions in the best interest of the students who elected us.
We will continue to listen and provide you with opportunities to share your thoughts. This fall we will be engaging in surveys, focus groups, and town halls to learn more about what you expect from WUSA. We’ll also be conducting an extensive services review by the Campus Life Advisory Committee and the Internal Administration Committee.
Over the next 8-months, your Executive will work hard to restore your confidence in your student association. I have asked your Students’ Council to approve a full review of the events leading up to, during, and following the special Council meeting. Once this process is approved on Sunday, August 23, I will work tirelessly to create a final report with actions WUSA will take to make our organization a safe, inclusive space for all.
Your Executive are determined to ensure our campus is a place where students feel safe. We are continuing to advocate on key issues like affordability, quality of education, student safety and access to post-secondary education. Our hope is that together, we continue to create an online community of compassion. We all have a part to play in improving campus life, no matter where it happens.
I encourage everyone to continue engaging with us. Whether by filling out our surveys, sending us your thoughts via email, or attending our town halls, we will always prioritize hearing from you. Another great way to make your thoughts and feelings known is through your Councillors. We meet with them each month at Students’ Council and rely on them to bring your voice to the discussion. Help them do that better by reaching out to them.
Thank you for allowing us to serve you.