Monday September 01, 2014

Why must TRU advocates self-identify?

Is it possible to envision social policy that’s both progressive and regressive at the same time? It looks like Thompson River University’s Student Union may have found a way.

TRUSU told The Daily News Wednesday it will seek to change the structure of its council to allow for better representation of TRU’s student body.

President Dustin McIntyre said the student union will dedicate part of its annual general meeting Jan. 24 to provide voice to the school’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) community. If successful, the bylaws changes will create two more seats at the council table.

The union’s intention to broaden student representation at its council table is a progressive move.

It makes the union president’s follow-up comments seem strange. The student union, he said, will also seek to change its bylaws to require advocates for these underrepresented demographics  — including LGBT, international, aboriginal students and women — are members of the groups they represent.

In essence, it seems, the ability of students to serve others will be based firstly on physical
characteristics including race, gender and sexual orientation. It’s hard to envision a more socially regressive kind of approach to selection for public service.

Requiring students to prove they are members of a demographic in order to represent others is demeaning.

Can someone who is heterosexual not represent the LGBT community? Can a non-aboriginal not speak effectively for the interests of First Nations? Why is it assumed only women can speak for the interests of women?

What’s more important is for the representative to have the support of those they seek to represent. The student union should consider ways to ensure those who act as advocates at its council table have the support of the student body more than worrying about whether individuals have the right skin colour, gender or sexual orientation.

Ultimately, wanting to be an advocate for others — having the desire to fight for social change for all groups — is more desirable than possession the physical attributes that denote membership in a marginalized community.

Hopefully, TRU students will set their leaders on a better track when the union holds its AGM. The selection of student representatives at the union’s council table should not be shackled in such shameful fashion.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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