Is there such a thing as reverse racism? At the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and York University, this question was put in to action when a student group called “Students for Western Civilization” began promoting a club aimed at “western” students. </p>
In the same vein as other cultural societies, such as UW’s Chinese Student Association and the African Students Association, the Students for Western Civilization advertised being a place for students of similar cultural backgrounds to gather together.
The Students of Western Civilization’s website claims they exist “to organize for and advance the interests of Western peoples,” and “to promote and celebrate Western Civilization.”
Unlike other university societies that work to mobilize students of distinctive cultural backgrounds to share experiences, the Students for Western Civilization looks to group together the diverse (and thus very culturally different) European and North American people under the vague title of “western.”
In Canada, where around 20 per cent of the population identifies as a visible minority according to Statistics Canada, it is fair to draw the conclusion that the Students for Western Civilization is most likely a thinly veiled race-based society, especially as the poster showcases two white men in front of the CN Tower.
While the posters were not sanctioned by any of the universities and have been actively removed by them, it raises the question as to how UW would react if faced with a similar situation, especially with UW’s large international population.
According to Jake Riesenkonig, Feds’ club manager, “If a club follows the four pillars and UW/Feds policies and procedures, it is allowed on campus. One of the four pillars is inclusivity.”
He also pointed out that “It is up to the students to decide what they’d like to create. Ultimately, it is up to the Internal Administration Committee for club approvals and amendments.”
What Riesenkonig did not supply was a concrete yes or no response as to whether these sorts of clubs and posters would be allowed on the UW campus. Though according to Dave McDougall, the director of campus life, “no similar club has been proposed in the last 15 years.”
That is not to say that such a club could not exist, however.
Perhaps it is through these grey areas that such clubs and societies like the Students for Western Civilization slip through. After all, although Riesenkonig stated “Feds is proud to support students who want to broaden their horizons and positively improve UW’s overall campus life experience through clubs,” every person and every club’s idea of positively improving UW’s overall experience varies.
In fact, looking at Feds’ club manual, which claims on its title page to have “everything you need to know to run and manage your Feds club” — including how to start a club — there is no mention of the need for inclusivity.
When the largest issue concerning a club’s purpose is that “the purpose of the club must not overlap the purpose of any other recognized club” in Feds’ club manual, it leaves room for semantics and creativity in the sorts of clubs that could be created.
So while Riesenkonig claimed, “Unless a specific club is proposed, it can’t be determined if it falls within the pillars or the policies and procedures or not,” it can be determined that there is room for improvement with how clubs and societies are accepted and chosen at the University of Waterloo.