Open letter to Jamie Cassels: Take action, lead change

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Students contemplate the wall early Thursday evening. Photo by Myles Sauer, Editor-in-Chief

UVic’s response to the Third Space wall following its removal has drawn criticism from UVic staff and faculty. Photo by Myles Sauer, Editor-in-Chief

To UVic President Jamie Cassels,

We, the undersigned, request that you consider attending more deeply to the matters of white supremacy and racism, sexism and homophobia in efforts to transform the working and learning climate at UVic.

On March 23, 2017, your office posted your response regarding the UVSS Third Space interactive art installation that elicited numerous racist responses to challenging white supremacy.

Students wanted to open a space for dialogue [Link]. They succeeded in opening such a space and many of the comments constructively contributed to praxis that resists and/or seeks to make visible, dismantle and/or transform white supremacy. However, many of the contributions were vile and incited violent rhetoric and hate. These comments offer evidence of the continued existence, and further entrenchment of attitudes of whiteness as preferred and normal at the University of Victoria.

Although we acknowledge the Office of the President recognized this matter through said letter on March 23, 2017, we also hold that a much deeper sustained response is needed that responds to the structures, scaffolding, systems, and attitudes that keeps whitenesss centered and in power over relations with racialized “others.”

As you know, the reaction to the UVic Third Space art installation is only the most recent example of ongoing racism, sexism and homophobia that erupts year after year. Public expressions of hatred and exclusion are not new on this campus. Campus rooms and hallways have been, and continue to be, littered with messages of hate and exclusion fostering a climate where every day racialized and gendered verbal and physical violence can occur with seeming impunity. As an example of impunity, in reference to your letter, students, faculty and staff of colour are offered support services. But there is no indication that these matters will be investigated or that those who perpetuate this violence will be held accountable.

Further, institutional practices and discourses of marginalization and exclusion are still assumed as normal and “how things are done here.” While events south of the border may have loosened usually veiled ideologies of white supremacy, our experience is that a belief in white, heterosexual privilege is systemic and deeply rooted in University of Victoria’s structures, discourses, and processes. Other ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling are available. Alternative processes and structures have been created that support the dismantling of systemic exclusion and marginalization.

Many of us have worked at this university for decades and have seen some improvements. We are aware of the glacial pace of change and do not overlook the significance of such change when it does occur. But recurring incidents of hatred and exclusion continue and as such, certain groups of people remain at risk on campus. These incidents may appear inconsequential, but to those most affected who have spent their lives working at UVic, these incidents have cumulative, demoralizing and harmful effects on self, on interpersonal relationships, on productivity and more. We believe the university can and must do more than issue a letter if it aims to bring about deep, systemic, institutional transformation.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. Many of us have been engaged with equity work on and off campus in areas of anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-violence, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, anti-Islamophobia, anti-exclusion of differently abled persons on campus. Closely related are efforts on decolonizing the academy more generally. There are experienced, passionate and wise people capable of implementing this work.

As president, we call on you to take action in this spirit. You, President Cassels, can begin by providing moral leadership and tangible support for a self-organized, self-determining, and independent (from existing administrative and governing structures) collective of engaged faculty, staff and students to develop and guide this process.

We, the undersigned, request that you consider attending more deeply to the matters of white supremacy and racism, sexism and homophobia in efforts to transform the working and learning climate at UVic.

Dr. Jo-Anne Lee

On behalf of the Department of Gender Studies

An open forum open to faculty, staff and students is scheduled for Thursday, April 13, from noon to 1:30 p.m. David Turpin Building Room 110.

The forum’s purpose is twofold: 1) to provide a space of sharing, support and dialogue for those affected, and 2) to develop an action plan for future action.

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  • Jon

    SEASON 2???

  • Gabriel Syme

    Let’s not be mean to the professor, people. She’s written something incredibly dubious, not wicked.

    • Oh, I think she knows it’s wicked. She can’t be that clueless.

      • Gabriel Syme

        You would be surprised.

  • TejrnarG

    I think that it is a disgrace for academia that you have been allowed to hold a Dr degree and to conduct “research” in and teach your ideological pseudo-cultism to young, manipulable minds on the cost of the tax payer. If the University administration can do anything to help the case then it is to financially starve out your department.

  • cor13

    “They succeeded in opening such a space and many of the comments constructively contributed to praxis that resists and/or seeks to make visible, dismantle and/or transform white supremacy. However, many of the contributions were vile and incited violent rhetoric and hate.”

    Way to miss the point of a free speech wall… Yes, that’s right. A free speech wall will have things on it you agree with, AND things you don’t agree with. What about that concept are you unclear on?

  • Kale Fantastic Fenneman

    This has every characteristic of a witch hunt. You make vague accusations and ask for even more ill defined authority. In free societies you must win hearts and minds, not bludgeon the opposition. Your open dialogue allowed dissenting voices in, that’s what a open dialogue is. I like many others worry that the nobility of your intentions belies an reprehensible, if not evil, character. You need to provide more direct examples and direct actions.

    • cor13

      I just had to:

      To UVic President Jamie Cassels,

      We, the undersigned, request that you consider attending more deeply to the matters of witchcraft in efforts to transform the working and learning climate at UVic.

      On March 23, 2017, your office posted your response regarding the UVSS Third Space interactive art installation that elicited numerous satanic responses to challenging witchcraft.

      Students wanted to open a space for dialogue. They succeeded in opening such a space and many of the comments constructively contributed to praxis that resists and/or seeks to make visible, dismantle and/or transform witchcraft. However, many of the contributions were vile and incited violent satan worship. These comments offer evidence of the continued existence, and further entrenchment of attitudes of witches as preferred and normal at the University of Victoria.

      Although we acknowledge the Office of the President recognized this matter through said letter on March 23, 2017, we also hold that a much deeper sustained response is needed that responds to the structures, scaffolding, systems, and attitudes that keeps witches centered and in power over relations with innocent Christians

      As you know, the reaction to the UVic Third Space art installation is only the most recent example of ongoing satan worship that erupts year after year. Public expressions of witchcraft are not new on this campus. Campus rooms and hallways have been, and continue to be, littered with messages of satan-worship fostering a climate where every day anti-Christian verbal and physical violence can occur with seeming impunity. As an example of impunity, in reference to your letter, Christians are offered support services. But there is no indication that these matters will be investigated or that those witches who perpetuate this violence will be held accountable.

      Further, institutional practices and discourses of witchcraft are still assumed as normal and “how things are done here.” While events south of the border may have loosened usually veiled ideologies of satan-worship, our experience is that a belief in witchcraft is systemic and deeply rooted in University of Victoria’s structures, discourses, and processes. Other ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling are available. Alternative processes and structures have been created that support the dismantling of witchcraft.

      Many of us have worked at this university for decades and have seen some improvements. We are aware of the glacial pace of change and do not overlook the significance of such change when it does occur. But recurring incidents of satan worship continue and as such, certain groups of people remain at risk on campus. These incidents may appear inconsequential, but to those most affected who have spent their lives working at UVic, these incidents have cumulative, demoralizing and harmful effects on Christian worship, on interpersonal relationships, on productivity and more. We believe the university can and must do more than issue a letter if it aims to bring about deep, systemic, institutional transformation.

      Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. Many of us have been engaged with equity work on and off campus in areas of anti-witchcraft. Closely related are efforts on Christianizing the academy more generally. There are experienced, passionate and wise people capable of implementing this work.

      As president, we call on you to take action in this spirit. You, President Cassels, can begin by providing moral leadership and tangible support for a self-organized, self-determining, and independent (from existing administrative and governing structures) collective of engaged faculty, staff and students to develop and guide this process.

      We, the undersigned, request that you consider attending more deeply to the matters of witchcraft in efforts to transform the working and learning climate at UVic.

      Dr. Jo-Anne Lee

      • Kale Fantastic Fenneman

        You are my hero lol

  • Scientific Coder

    How was this debacle not entirely predictable ?
    Do these people really deep down actually believe that white people are smarter and wiser than any other racialized people ?
    I, for one, do not. So I understand that, unfortunately, after the black people in the U.S. have been shamed and offended because of their skin colored, they failed to challenge the very concept of “race” and instead pushed back within the same racist/colonial framework of “racial identity” and we got “black pride”, “black is beautiful”, “black power” etc.
    Now the public shaming culture is swinging the other way, shaming “whiteness”, “white patriarchy” or even “white feminism”. Is it so hard to guess what will happen ? Really ?

    • TejrnarG

      I am sure it was predictable. And I am sure thats precisely what they wanted. So they can use this as reason to demand more power.

      • Gabriel Syme

        I think you’re giving them too much credit. This seems more like a desperate, clawing attempt at stirring up a controversy in order for the futureless activists behind it to get the attention of moneyed social organizations. Dr. Lee is probably just helping who she thinks are true believers (and maybe they are, so long as they are financially disincentivized from reflecting seriously on what they’re selling).

  • Churchill4President

    What you just read or tried to read, ladies and gentleman is venemous Marxist claptrap. Gender studies is a cancer that must be removed from the body of Western civilization

  • Gabriel Syme

    “Public expressions of hatred and exclusion are not new on this campus. Campus rooms and hallways have been, and continue to be, littered with messages of hate and exclusion fostering a climate where every day racialized and gendered verbal and physical violence can occur with seeming impunity.”

    Really, Dr. Lee?

    • Hairy Beast

      She’s right. Campuses are littered with messages hate and exclusion.. for straight white males.