Amidst tensions and resignations, another push for gender diversity emerges

CSU councillor to motion for more diversity in policy committee appointment

File Photo Ireland Compton

Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin’s resignation during the Aug. 26 Concordia Student Union special council meeting left a seat to fill on the CSU’s policy committee. Given that all committee members are men, with only one BIPOC, councillor S Shivaane is aiming to change that.

Shivaane is planning to introduce a motion to fill the missing seat with a councillor that is either a woman or someone who is gender non-conforming. Other members of the LGBTQ and/or BIPOC community are also welcome.

“Diversity in policy-making matters a lot,” Shivaane said. “There’s always going to be a perspective non-men have that men might not think of because it doesn’t apply.”

She went on to explain that—while everyone in the Concordia student body should be learning more about these issues and how sensitive they are both on and off-campus—having someone with those identities on the policy committee would be an important step forward.

That kind of perspective is something Diana Lukic—appointed to the Student Life Committee through a similar diversity motion—is hoping to bring forward. As a trans person, Lukic is hoping to make the campus and its services feel more accessible and safe.

“It’s important how everyone learns how to approach and interact with different people in an open and productive way,” said Lukic. “Whether it be how to ask for someone’s pronouns or knowing what not to ask, we’re looking into training for something like that so everyone is on the same page. It helps create a better and healthier environment.”

A healthy environment does not necessarily describe the current CSU council, however. In the same SGM that saw Vandolder-Beaudin resign alongside former General Coordinator and fellow councillor Christopher Kalafatidis, the sharp divide between many members on the council became evident.

“Diversity in policy-making matters a lot. There’s always going to be a perspective non-men have that men might not think of because it doesn’t apply.” —S Shivaane

One of the most striking examples of this happened during Vandolder-Beaudin’s appointment to the policy committee alongside councillor Ahmadou Sakho during an SGM on Jul. 23. After the vote between the two came to a tie, it was brought up that Kalafatidis—who is in a relationship with Vandolder-Beaudin and motivated for her—was operating with a conflict of interest.

The following tug of war between councillors over the definition of conflict of interest led to a vote that ultimately went in Kalafatidis’ favour. With the vote for the actual appointment still tied, it was resolved that both Sakho and Vandolder-Beaudin would sit on the policy committee. However, the whole ordeal—as well as the implication that one would be in a conflict of interest by voting for oneself—left Sakho feeling disrespected, he expressed.

“My highly emotional reaction […] demonstrates how frustrating it is being a councillor, seeing that people have absolutely no respect and say the most ridiculous or outrageous things,” he said.

Sakho went on to explain how implying that he was in a conflict of interest for voting for himself felt like a personal attack. “People have insulted my intelligence and the intelligence of all the councillors in that meeting. That is a very ridiculous thing to say,” he added.

The entire ordeal left Sakho shaken and it didn’t help that the aim of the appointments during the Jul. 23 SGM was to include more BIPOC and gender diversity in the CSU’s committees. Vandolder-Beaudin—being a straight cis-gendered white woman—was included in the discussion, seemingly undermining the goal of the motion.

Tensions aside, Shivaane’s motion could bring much-needed gender diversity to an otherwise homogenous group—something she deems problematic especially when the policy committee is involved. “No one knows an issue more than the folks who go through them,” she added.