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McGill Farnan Apology

Equity policy could face revision following “Farnan-gate” backlash

Councillors express concern regarding lack of transparency, ability to revise recommendations

By Jessica Fu, McGill Tribune, 2014.02.04

The Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Equity Policy will undergo review in the upcoming weeks, following concerns regarding the processing of a complaint against Vice-President Internal Brian Farnan filed in October last year.

The issue arose after councillors raised concerns regarding the stages of the policy that led to Farnan’s Jan. 27 public apology in response to allegations of racial insensitivity. The apology has received widespread attention, much of it critical.

“The reaction on social media has been overwhelmingly negative, anyone who suggests otherwise is in denial,” said Arts representative Benjamin Reedijk.

On Oct. 17, Farnan sent out a weekly SSMU listerv that included a link to a .gif file of United States President Barack Obama kicking down a door, originally a clip that was manipulated and aired by The Tonight Show.

“There was a complaint issued; [and] the process was followed—the public process as equity complaints are done,” Farnan said.

According to the equity policy, a submitted complaint can undergo either an informal resolution or a formal resolution, which Farnan explained as the cause of the three-month delay between the submission of the complaint and his apology.

“When you add the informal, the formal, getting both sides to respond—each side has X amount of days—it just starts to add up,” Farnan said. “The goal is to solve it in an informal process. If it’s gone to a formal process, usually one can deduce that the informal process was not sufficient.”

Under the formal process, the complaint in question was forwarded to a SSMU equity officer, who made a recommendation upon investigation of the complaint.

“Depending on the nature and severity of the harassment, the remedies for policy violations may include, but are not limited to: letter(s) of apology, suspension of the respondent from their position within the SSMU, and […] dismissal of the respondent from their position within the SSMU,” the policy reads.

The recommendation was then brought to the confidential session of SSMU’s Dec. 5 Legislative Council meeting, where, according to the policy, it required two-thirds opposition to be overturned. Equity recommendations at this point cannot be revised.

According to Reedijk, an issue with this process is its reliance on the equity commissioner’s judgment.

“I question the power given to the equity commissioner,” Reedijk said. “[Farnan’s] case demonstrates that there are issues with the decision-making that occurs.”

Due to the policy’s confidentiality clauses, discussion of the issue is held in Council’s confidential session. Some councillors, however, have expressed concern with this stage, saying it lacks transparency.

“I’ve personally had people […] come up to me and say, ‘Why was this decision made; can you justify it?’” Science representative Devin Bissky-Dziadyk said. “The only thing I can say is [that] the equity policy was followed; we did what we were supposed to do, [and] everything was very, very official.”

Arts representative Kareem Ibrahim stressed the importance of protecting anonymity in this situation.

“A lot of the information would probably change the views of a lot of the people who are so quick to judge the situation and be critical of the decisions that were made,” he said. “[But] a lot of that information is confidential due to the nature of the process in order to protect those who have filed the complaints.”

However, clubs and services representative Elie Lubendo said the current system should be changed.

“The only thing that should be confidential is the identity of the [complainants],” he said. “Anything beyond that we should be allowed to say.”

Bissky-Dziadyk said deciding what could breach confidentiality would take longer than drawing an absolute line.

“SSMU has an obligation to be as open as possible; if that means a bit of extra work on our part, we should go through with it, as much as possible should be made public,” he said.

An overhaul of the policy had already been planned since the beginning of the academic year, according to SSMU Vice-President University Affairs Joey Shea, and will coincide with these recent concerns as a topic for upcoming Council sessions.

“At the beginning of September, we hired three researchers to do three equity research projects that were comparing SSMU’s equity policy with other universities’ equity policies, and those just finished,” Shea said. “It’ll be a consultative process, because there are a lot of people with a lot of different ideas about what’s wrong with it now.”

Bissky-Dziadyk emphasized the importance of creating institutional changes, such as the ability to revise equity recommendations to Council in the future.

“There needs to be a more dynamic process—that’s the reality of the world, a lot of decisions need a bit of back and forth,” he said. “We need to recognize that, as a group of students, [the policy] is just as malleable as any others.”

Changes to the equity policy are passed as motions at Council. Ibrahim said that despite negative response to the apology, the conversation is an important one to have.

“In reality, SSMU has gotten a lot of backlash […] from this complaint,” Ibrahim said. “I don’t think that there’s really a problem with how things have gone. It obviously could have gone a bit smoother, but I think it’s essential that the conversation that we’re having does happen.”

—Additional reporting by Abraham Moussako

COMMENTS

RecklessProcess: These administrators are doing their best to produce a generation of submissive little subjects for the totalitarian socialists in government who are destroying the economy, jobs, and running entire industries overseas. Bend over little students and 'eat your peas'

nicholasi to RecklessProcess: That is the goal, yes. Objecting to that goal is microaggression in the first degree, bordering on macroaggression in the third degree. Why shouldn't entire Canadian industries go overseas? It's not as if any White men ever did any work in those industries, or took any risks setting them up.

nicholasi: Microaggression policies are macroagressions.

JohnSkookum: The only proper answer to this kind of inquisition is "Go to hell!"

nicholasi to JohnSkookum: Farnan's response was, "Suck it for how long?"

profnickd: After the complainant had his feelings hurt did he call his mom?

Sean Peake: The opposite of diversity? University.

gekkobear: "Oppression, as outlined in SSMU’s Equity Policy, means the exercise of power by a group of people over another group of people with specific consideration of cultural, historical and living legacies." - SSMU Equity Policy I think I get it. (1) The problem is racial aggression through imbalance of power. (2) The White student clearly has the power, and the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES doesn't have any power in comparison. (3) Your college is led by blithering imbeciles who somehow believe having a skin tone with pallor makes you a damned super-hero who is more powerful than the President. (4) Any rational person should run far far away to avoid these stupid people with power and no rational thought from randomly punishing people without a shred of rationality. That or my "super-amazing powers of whiteness" that make me more powerful than the President of the United States of America failed to develop properly. Can I get gamma radiation treatment for that?

nicholasi to gekkobear: Yes, a blind one-legged White homeless person with AIDS and a dead dog is more powerful than the president of the United States of America.

gvanderleun: Ibrahim and the SSMU are merely chunks of human feces that need to be flushed off the planet as soon as possible.

RecklessProcess: I am offended that people were offended by this cartoon of the president. How dare white people dare to be offended on behalf of some other race. It is offensive to me that free speech and comic parody are not allowed. If offends me that there are people who consider themselves the arbiters of what other people are allowed to say. This is disgusting. It is a gigantic aggression against this student who made a joke. There was no thought of race in the joke. There was no aggression against anyone. It was a statement of empathy and commonality of feeling with a CARTOON! Those who choose to call it aggression are the aggressors. They should be made to apologize to everyone concerned for wasting everyone's time with complete nonsense. White people should not be allowed to pretend to be offended on behalf of black people or any other race. This is how you stir up racial division and create xenophobia. The only people seeing race are the ones who filed the complaint. The student who posted the cartoon is colorblind and we should support him. The people who made the complaint are the only racists and it is they who are striving to create strife and division and maintain racial boundaries. Disgusting!

nicholasi to RecklessProcess: I am offended that you are offended that people were offended.

Anonymous: Black people don't get stressed, only white people do. If you think otherwise, that's because you're racist. That is the lesson learned from this bizarre story. Only a white person could conceive of such a stupid idea...

nicholasi to Anonymous: I believe you'll find these policies are not the work of White people.

Seriously?: Who knew that eventually an entire race would be protected from any sort of criticism or discussion? So we know now that we can't discuss anything having to do with blacks...how long before our LACK of discussion about blacks (for fear of a response like this) will itself be racist because they're being ignored - and we're issued state-sponsored discussion points so that we can include blacks in conversation, but do so safely, politely and respectfully? "President Obama is black. President Obama is great. We love President Obama. Thank you President Obama."

nicholasi to Seriously?: This satire is an example of microaggression, and you must apologize: "President Obama is black. President Obama is great. We love President Obama. Thank you President Obama."

harringm: If this complaining student is so fragile that he can't tolerate dissenting views, then he really doesn't belong at McGill or any university. What McGill needs is not an equity commissar but some common sense.

Anonymous: Claiming that an absurd action or statement with an overwhelmingly negative public reaction is important and valid because it at least "started a dialogue", or anything along those lines, has got to rank up there among the most bullshit inane poltiical cliches of all time. Congrats.

http://mcgilltribune.com/equity-policy-could-face-revision-following-farnan-gate-backlash/



Microaggression Mania: McGill U. student leader apologizes for .gif of Obama kicking open door

By William A. Jacobson, Legal Insurrection, February 16, 2014

Says image “an extension of the … legacy surrounding people of color—particularly young men—being portrayed as violent”

“Microagression” is the latest craze in racial grievance, something we highlighted when a UCLA professor was accused of the transgression for correcting grammar on minority students’ papers.

The fake scenario of Obama kicking open a door after a press conference went viral after Jay Leno showed it on the Tonight Show.

It obviously was fake, but took on a life of its own on the internet, causing Snopes to issue a False rating and a video comparing the original and edited versions.

It also spawned a .gif of the key moment.

All fairly light-hearted humor.

Brian Farnan, Vice President for Internal Affairs at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) in Canada thought it was funny too, and circulated the .gif as part of a weekly mailing.

That got him in trouble with the thought police, who filed a complaint against him with SSMU’s Equity Committee, which enforces an expansive Equity Policy banning a broad range of supposedly “oppressive” conduct.

As reported by The McGill Tribune:

"On Oct. 17, Farnan sent out a weekly SSMU listerv that included a link to a .gif file of United States President Barack Obama kicking down a door, originally a clip that was manipulated and aired by The Tonight Show.

"“There was a complaint issued; [and] the process was followed—the public process as equity complaints are done,” Farnan said.

"According to the equity policy, a submitted complaint can undergo either an informal resolution or a formal resolution, which Farnan explained as the cause of the three-month delay between the submission of the complaint and his apology.

"“When you add the informal, the formal, getting both sides to respond—each side has X amount of days—it just starts to add up,” Farnan said. “The goal is to solve it in an informal process. If it’s gone to a formal process, usually one can deduce that the informal process was not sufficient.”

"Under the formal process, the complaint in question was forwarded to a SSMU equity officer, who made a recommendation upon investigation of the complaint.

"“Depending on the nature and severity of the harassment, the remedies for policy violations may include, but are not limited to: letter(s) of apology, suspension of the respondent from their position within the SSMU, and […] dismissal of the respondent from their position within the SSMU,” the policy reads.

"The recommendation was then brought to the confidential session of SSMU’s Dec. 5 Legislative Council meeting, where, according to the policy, it required two-thirds opposition to be overturned. Equity recommendations at this point cannot be revised."

Although the SSMU process does not appear to be public, we do know the end result, Farnan issued a public apology for engaging in microaggression (emphasis added):

“The email in question contained the phrase “Honestly midterms get out of here” followed by a URL leading to a .GIF image of President Obama violently kick a door and storming out of a room following a press conference. The inclusion of the .GIF image was intended to bring a humorous tone to the email and use President Obama’s frustration with the press conference in question to mimic the frustration students feel when confronted with midterm examinations. Despite the innocent intentions influencing my decision to use this particular image, I have come to recognize the negative implications of adding the .GIF image within this given context."

(…)

"Oppression, as outlined in SSMU’s Equity Policy, means the exercise of power by a group of people over another group of people with specific consideration of cultural, historical and living legacies. The image in question was an extension of the cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of color—particularly young men—being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture and media. By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of SSMU’s communication to become the site of a microaggression; for this, I am deeply sorry.”

I emailed Farnan for comment and further explanation, but have not heard back.

An officer of McGill’s Post-Graduate Student Society noted how the Equity Policy and its enforcement is based on critical race theory and turns liability into a question of the subjective feelings of recipients of speech:

"The actions SSMU takes in disciplining its members are always subject to legal challenge, though courts will generally not interfere if due process is followed and decisions are unbiased. But the Equity Policy inverts the burden of proof so that accusation and subjective experience becomes a valid basis of discipline and it considers matters of identity, rather than strict evidence, in determining culpability.

"In this way, the policy unknowingly subscribes to the very principles of justice that would enable oppression by a majority group to thrive by renouncing rights traditionally guaranteed to defendants to prevent unjust persecutions. It is far from certain that courts would find disciplinary decisions made under the Equity Policy to be unbiased, and the very public nature of the disciplinary action taken in this case exposes the SSMU to significant liability for violating members’ Charter right to the safeguard of their reputation.

"SSMU should keep its Equity Policy and further develop those elements which aim to educate and protect members, but it must scrap the disciplinary aspects of the code. Intellectual honesty requires making a distinction between theory and fact, and fundamental norms of equity require codes of discipline to be rigorous and self-consistent."

The Equity Policy at McGill is similar to the speech codes at many U.S. universities, where what matters is the subjective offense of the complainant.

This is what happens when critical race and other theories take hold, and evidence is deemed an inconvenience.

But not all offense is treated equally. Another McGill student is offended that Farnan apologized:

"Brian, your GIF didn’t offend me, your apology did. I am offended that you think I’m so shallow and high-strung that I would be offended by this.

"If a few people complained to you about this, you should have simply apologized only to them if you genuinely believed the GIF was offensive.

"I’m offended that SSMU spent so much time reviewing this. They spent my student fees on this when they could have looked into other things that would have actually been useful to students.

"By sending the second email to the McGill community, you have not only made the majority of us face palm and be ashamed of SSMU and its equity commission, but have also detracted from the true purpose of the equity council. I am forced to question SSMU’s legitimacy and objectivity.

"Quite frankly, Brian, it’s going to be difficult to ever take you or the equity commission seriously after this. It is unfortunate that SSMU wasted time investigating whether or not a GIF was offensive, because there are real issues that students face."

I wonder if that second offended student can file a complaint against the Equity Committee

http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/02/microaggression-mania-mcgill-u-student-leader-apologizes-for-gif-of-obama-kicking-open-door/



Student forced to apologize for emailing pic of Obama kicking a door, because RACISM

Daily Caller > Education, 2014.02.17

A student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada was forced to issue a formal apology for emailing a picture of President Obama kicking open a door–all because some students thought the image was somehow racist.

The image was actually an edited .gif, and was shown by Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” last fall. It humorously suggests that the president may be fed up with press conferences. McGill student Brian Farnan, vice president of the university’s student government, sent out an email with the .gif and the harmless caption, “Honestly midterms get out of here,” according to Legal Insurrection.

What happened next is almost unbelievable: Another student issued a formal complaint against Farnan for committing a “micro-aggression.”For those not up-to-date on the PC lexicon, “micro-aggression” is the latest phrase of choice for leftist radicals seeking to blame racism for common annoyances suffered by people of all races. Minority activists at the University of Michigan, for example, have insisted that trivial slights, such as “Having your opinion second-guessed in a group assignment,” are micro-aggressions that betray the campus as a hostile place for students of color. (RELATED: UMich means demands of black students who threatened ‘physical action’)

The .gif of Obama kicking a door was racist because of the “cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of color—particularly young men—being portrayed as violent,” according to the apology letter that Farnan was forced to write.

Technically, Farnan got off easy. Under the McGill student government’s Orwellian “equity policy,” Farnan could have been suspended or even dismissed from his position as vice president in the organization. The decision to force Farnan to apologize was apparently made by an “equity commissioner,” whose will can only be overturned by a two-thirds majority of the student government.

Like a true victim of the thought police, Farnan was forced to denounce his heretical email.

“Despite the innocent intentions influencing my decision to use this particular image, I have come to recognize the negative implications of adding the .GIF image within this given context,” he said. “By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of [Student Society of McGill University] communication to become the site of a microaggression; for this, I am deeply sorry.”

The punishment of Farnan has proved controversial, however, and now the student government has plans to review the equity policy in the coming weeks.

http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/17/student-forced-to-apologize-for-emailing-pic-of-obama-kicking-a-door-because-racism



VP Internal Affairs-Brian Farnan

Hello SSMU!

My name is Brian Farnan and I will have the pleasure of serving you faithfully this year as the VP Internal of SSMU! I started my long journey here at McGill 4 long years ago–much simpler times. Since my humble beginnings as VP Internal of Molson Residence Hall, I have grown to embrace campus life. I am a Political Science major, Communications Studies minor. Throughout my time at McGill I have been involved in many committees and initiatives, organized numerous events, served as VP Events for Right to Play and enjoyed a stint as VP External for the Arts Undergraduate Society.

As VP Internal, I will be in charge of the planning and logistics for all SSMU events, orchestrate the Society’s communications with students, and facilitate interaction & cooperation between the Faculty Associations and SSMU. I hope to use the experience I have gained from my involvement on campus to effectively bolster SSMU’s communications and continue on the success of SSMU’s infamous events.

Feel free to contact me [ internal@ssmu.mcgill.ca ] to book an appointment and/or visit me. My open office hours are Monday to Friday from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

See you on the other side.

http://ssmu.mcgill.ca/about-us/our-team/executives/

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