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SSMU’s Equity Policy, McGill’s hiring practices under revision under VP University Affairs

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Equity Policy is currently undergoing revision by the SSMU Equity Committee to increase its accessibility and simplicity.

According to member Robin Nyamakye, the committee has been working on the definition of terms last semester, with the aim of providing a comprehensive and easily readable document for SSMU staff, clubs, and student groups to follow.

SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan stated that the Equity Committee is trying to condense the document this semester. 

“[We want to make] it a more concise document, removing redundancies,” Stewart-Kanigan said. “The whole purpose of it is to be an [accessible] tool for people, so we want to make the language as clear and as accessible as possible. A 20-page document can feel intimidating.”

The SSMU Equity Policy will only be effective in SSMU, SSMU clubs, and Independent Student Groups. Other faculty equity committees should have their own equity policies and their own ways of promoting equity in respective faculties, according to Stewart-Kanigan.

 “I think it’s important to leave space for [a] de-centralized approach to equity, because each faculty equity committee is going to know how to best speak to their constituents, and know what kind of language [to use, and] what kind of approaches are going to best resonate,” Stewart-Kanigan said. “I think it is an asset to have such autonomous faculty associations.” 

The Equity Committee under the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) agreed that this parallel structure would work across campus.

“I think there are a lot of different issues we are trying to hit,” EUS Equity Committee member Emilie Froeliger said. “It’s better for us [to be autonomous], just because we know our faculty and the students that are affected directly [the best].”

Despite being independent from one another, according to EUS Equity Commissioner Simrin Desai, the faculty committees interacted a lot with one another last semester.

“We recently had an ‘Equity Retreat’ [including] a lot of equity committees across campus […] and we did different workshops and discussions,” Desai said. “You learn a lot from their challenges, and the solutions they have come up with.”

The SSMU Equity Committee is also working on other projects such as evaluating McGill’s hiring processes.

“We hired two student researchers this month,” Stewart-Kanigan said. “They are currently doing a scan of McGill’s hiring processes. McGill does have an employment equity policy, but [its] employment equity policy only mandates them to produce a report […] but [not] to take any action on those representations [.…] We’d like to produce a report with recommendations on the McGill side by the end of this academic year.” 

SSMU equity projects that are open to student participation include Equity Conversations and the Equity Conference. According to Stewart-Kanigan, the conversations will cover a variety of subjects, such as race and gender. The series will continue throughout the semester. Additionally, the Equity Conference, themed ‘Equity in Law’, will be held in March.

Stewart-Kanigan hopes that these projects will help integrate equity deeper into McGill’s operation.

“[There is] this recurring theme of poor coordination between equity and events’ organization. Often, equity [gets] added in as a last minute consideration in planning, which often leads to an antagonistic relationship between event coordinators and equity,” Stewart-Kanigan said. “In speaking with various event coordinators and people working on equity on campus—both people of course care about students [feeling] comfortable and [having] good time in these events—so logically there should be stronger coordination than there is [now].”

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