Opinions

DSU inaction

Overlooking the disabled community at Dal

written by Mary MacDonald
October 11, 2016 3:17 pm

As the newly-appointed Equity and Accessibility Outreach Coordinator of the Dalhousie Student Union, Masuna Khan made her debut by writing an article in The Coast. This article clearly identifies Khan’s role as the new DSU Equity and Accessibility Coordinator and as such, anything she says reflects on the DSU.

Her article relates her own experiences and difficult search for employment. She links working in a fast food restaurant with paying tuition at Dal, which she says “is [high enough] to cripple any able body.” A most unfortunate choice of words for someone seeking to establish her credibility as an Accessibility Coordinator.

To make sense of the DSU’s reluctance to hold Ms. Khan accountable for her ableist comment, we need to understand details of the March 2016 student union elections. Ms. Khan was among three candidates for a position as Board of Governors representative on student council. I attended the all-candidates’ debate held at the Grawood but do not recall Ms. Khan specifically mentioning having personal experience with living with disability or wanting to advocate in this area. The Board of Governor rep position went to a different candidate; but the new DSU reps later “accommodated” Ms. Khan’s application to fill the vacant Equity and Accessibility position.

With respect to The Coast article, the DSU has failed to acknowledge that its own Equity Policy forbids the use of demeaning language targeting identifiable groups. It prefers to overlook its newly-minted Equity and Accessibility Coordinator’s ableist* comment.

This comes as no surprise given that the DSU has discriminated for many years against students with disabilities, like offering a free Tiger Patrol ride-home service that is not wheelchair accessible. Despite its lofty language about working to eliminate “all oppressions” the DSU’s equity office was of no help in voicing concern about the bike lane project which relocated handicapped parking spaces.

To become relevant, the DSU must take measures to represent mature students; graduate students and other stakeholders whose membership is virtually nil on the executive team, year after year. It is no coincidence that the ratio of Dalhousie students who vote in DSU elections hovers around 1 in 5.  Most importantly the DSU must reform its practices of selectively cherry-picking gender issues; failing to provide transparency when demanding funding from external sources and focusing on pet projects such as Israel that contribute to divisive discourse on campus.

*The American Psychological Association defines ‘cripple’ as an ablest slur word

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