Indigenous Students and Students of African Descent lobby for seats on the Student Union Council
Currently, the council of the StFX Students’ Union has ten representatives. An international councilor, equity, business, arts, science, graduate student, education, two who sit on the board of governors, and a first year representative.
This is a significant decrease in councilors compared to last year, as there was extensive overlap in representation. For example, if a student was in Arts, International, and a first year and lived on lower campus, four councilors would have represented that individual.
There are currently two student groups on campus that are not represented on council who would like to be, aboriginal students and students of African descent.
According to Nayo Upshaw, who has spearheaded the campaign to get the two new council positions, there is a clear need for greater representation.
“Individuals are less likely to approach those whom they do not identify with… historically these are two marginalized groups who represent a significant number of our student body.” Upshaw stated.
Upshaw goes on to say “We’re aware there is an Equity Representative [Cassia Trembley]. However, students from these two minority groups feel that they are unable to identify with this individual, and it’s hard to advocate from a minority perspective when you aren’t one. As well, Cassia’s constituency is the entire University populace. That’s an incredibly diverse group to try to represent and speak for. Students of First Nations Descent and African Descent have identified a need for specific representation, this is a way to respond.”
“All we’re asking for is respect. We’re asking for a seat at their table, a place for our voices to be heard.” Upshaw continued.
The goals and requirements of the two new potential councilors have been outlined as well. In the proposal the student groups have set forth, the new representatives “…must identify with the constituency they represent, will be required to get a nomination from the aboriginal student advisor and the office of students of African descent respectively.”
It’s further stated the proposal that the representative “shall provide assistance with the campaigns, initiatives, and services of the Union, a minimum of three hours a week, one of which must be office hours in the Aboriginal/African descent student office.”
It is recognized that these two potential new councilors will represent a broad range of people and can’t speak for everyone.
This campaign does not place blame on the U’s executive team for not having these two council positions. However, they are calling them to action. Upshaw says, “ [I] just want to state that we do not blame any on the current or past exec for not including these positions in the past… it’s not their fault, but it is their responsibility to make a change.”
Brandon Hamilton, chair of council, was asked if adding more councilors would be a positive or negative thing, “I see the benefit of a smaller council, but I’m open to adding more though.”
When asked if the school needs more representation on council, Hamilton stated he sees the need for more underrepresented groups to be represented, but ultimately wants to leave it up to council to make final decisions regarding the matter.
Hamilton has confirmed that the Students of African descent group and the Aboriginal students group have formally submitted a request for two new council positions representing their constituencies, which they presented to council on October 23.
When Hamilton was asked if the addition of more representatives will create an increased demand for more representatives for student groups across campus, his response was, “It’s hard to say right now, time will tell. Right now we are following provincial wide standards, patterns- school boards elect African descent and Aboriginal representatives and these are positions recognized in other forms of Government.”
Hamilton further states that the Student’s Union will take things one step at a time.