Dalhousie

Dalhousie withdraws formal complaint against DSU Vice-President

DSU Academic VP Masuma Khan no longer faces disciplinary action from Dal as the university seeks other way to engage in dialogue and transparency

Dalhousie withdraws formal complaint against DSU Vice-President photo by : Photo by Matt Stickland, Opinions Editor
Dalhousie Student Union Building AKA "The SUB" is the home to the DSU offices.
written by Kaila Jefferd-Moore and Matt Stickland
October 25, 2017 4:56 pm

On behalf of Dalhousie University, Vice-Provost Student Affairs Arig al-Shaibah released a statement this afternoon announcing their decision to withdraw the formal complaint against one of the Dalhousie University Student Union Vice-President’s, Masuma Khan.

For “three critical reasons,” al-Shaibah says the Dal Senate supports the decision after “having considered and weighed all of the events of the last few weeks, and particularly the last couple of days,” the memo titled Supporting freedom of expression, respectful dialogue and inclusive environment at Dalhousie University reads.

al-Shaibah emphasizes an importance and need for creating dialogue at Dal and and more transparency. She writes she has created “a small team of students and faculty members to advise on and assist in facilitating a campus dialogue series, to be launched with internal and external experts.”

Khan has recently been the centre of a senate disciplinary hearing after refusing to agree to the original, informal resolution process, “including a leadership development opportunity with a social justice advocate, was most appropriate given the nature of the situation;” al-Shaibah says she felt this was the best way to handle the situation.

The Situation

DSU tried to pass a resolution on June 28 to boycott Canada Day 2017 but due to a procedural error, they were unable to pass the resolution in time. When it did pass on July 19 it was amended, saying the DSU would participate in Canada 150 events that were created with Indigenous peoples.

Dal student, Michael Smith brought forward a formal complaint to the university against Khan because of her now-deleted Facebook post, followed by an op-ed in the National Post on July 10 denouncing the DSU’s decision to not participate in Canada Day celebrations. Khan’s Facebook post was in reaction to backlash over her initial resolution.

Dal’s Code of Student Conduct section C-1(f) states: “No student shall engage in unwelcome or persistent conduct that the student knows, or ought to reasonably know, would cause another person to feel demeaned, intimidated or harassed.”

The university found Khan’s language in the post was in contravention of this, therefore formal disciplinary action was to be debated by the Senate; according to the memo released, the specific parts of the Facebook post in question were: “Fuck you all,” “whitefragilitycankissmyass,” and “whitetearsarentsacred.”

Letters of support

Throughout these events over the past weeks, the Gazette has received numerous letters of support for Khan:

Dalhousie Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 

The Ontario Civil Liberties Association

The Society of Graduate Students from Western University in London, Ontario 

The Dalhousie Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Chairs and Directors 

“A Dal grad and former editor of the Gazette, I am appalled at how the university has treated Masuma Khan.

Like others, it seems to me that the whole process of “disciplining” her is unjust and the reading of your “code” inaccurate. The idea of a “disciplinary hearing” for making fair political comments about white privilege is ludicrous.

As the letter from Dal staff said, ‘Encouraging speech which challenges us as a community to reflect upon our roles in colonialism, oppression of marginalized communities, and systemic racism is critical to the mandate of this (or any other) university: censoring such speech is antithetical to that mandate.’

In the late 60s and early 70s, we fought against similar actions by the administration, for a real student voice in university affairs (e.g., the sit-in against the George Report)., and against the sexism and racism of the day. The current administration’s actions are demeaning and and attempt to intimidate Ms. Khan and all others at Dal who speak truth to power. They are especially worrisome when directed at a woman of colour who is questioning how indigenous history is recognised. I expect more of my alma mater.

Please stop the hearing and apologise to Ms. Khan for the way she has been treated. It also seems to be time to review that code and how it is applied. (That should be done with full and inclusive student input.)” – Dorothy Wigmore, former Gazette editor and Dal alumna