Students will not elect a racialized student representative (RSR) in this year’s UMSU general election.
The RSR is a community rep position proposed last year by Sean Gee, a student at the University of Manitoba, in an effort to give increased representation to racialized students.
The role of the RSR would be the same as the other community rep positions: liaising with and representing the community of students within the UMSU membership that elect them.
When the position was originally proposed, the position was expected to be part of the 2012 UMSU general elections.
Dan Nenadov, UMSU’s Chair of the Policy and Bylaws Committee, explained that the position will not emerge this year because UMSU typically does not make amendments to bylaws during UMSU elections.
He said that this is done in order to avoid influencing the outcome of the ongoing elections.
“As there are only few UMSU meetings left in the current year, there is insufficient time for a recommendation from the Policy and Bylaws Committee to be debated and reviewed by UMSU council,” he said.
If the position is created after the elections this year or early next fall, a by-election will be held to fill this position, Nenadov explained.
He explained that the motion to create this position was deferred from last year because there was exhaustive debate during UMSU council meetings.
“For this reason, it was determined that much more research was needed in order to acutely define the position and the students that the position would represent,” he said.
The motion is currently under review by the Policy and Bylaws Committee.
Nenadov said that the committee is currently in the process of gathering as much information as it can about the position. A large part of the difficulty in analyzing this request is defining the term “racialized,” he explained.
“In order to gather as much information as possible we have been in contact with other student unions in Canada to see if they have had similar experiences or have any information and/or suggestions to offer,” he said.
Gee commented that the RSR position is a common practice for locals of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
“I am simply the person who wondered why our local did not find it necessary for a RSR when so many others do find it imperative that the diversity of the student population is represented,” he said.
Gee said he brought the motion forward because there are systemic barriers to education for racialized students, especially racialized women.
“Studies made by the Canadian Federation of Students in Ontario have shown that racialized students earn less money for the same degree as their non-racialized counterparts and end up paying greater amounts for tuition due to longer interest periods due to the income gap,” he said.
He criticized the current administration for not making the creation of the position a priority.
“The current UMSU executive chose to not make diversity and inclusion a priority this year,” he argued. “It is unfortunate that those who have the ability to create this position do not feel that it is a priority.”
UMSU President, Camilla Tapp, felt that her administration was undeserving of the criticism.
“This year’s UMSU council has not taken a position on the Racialized Representative position,” Tapp said. “This has not been raised at council this year due to the fact that it is currently with the Policy and Bylaws committee, and also because no individual student or council member has raised it.”