So, this week started off great — still on a high after the sudden resolution I had last week, things got better when I heard that I got A’s on my midterms and assignments that I got back. And after a few days of hard work, I took a day off on Wednesday. Spent it in my socks, pajama pants, watching some TV (plus, I got free muffins at Muffin Madness later that day). But something happened on Thursday that caused me to stop and think, and I hope this post will help all of us to reflect.
Thursday night was the night of the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Annual General Meeting. Adam Vaughan came to address the crowd before motions would be presented. I don’t want to get into the details of what happened that night, nor do I want to discuss student politics. Frankly, I’m tired of student politics. Nor do I want to assign blame to anybody. But I do want us to have a discussion. Still, grab your socks, grab your hot chocolate and sit comfortably. This is a discussion we should all have, and we should do it with the least amount of animosity in our hearts and the most amount of comfort.
That night, in addition to the votes and the speeches (which is not what was troubling), students were heckled, interrupted and jeered. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum at U of T, we should all agree that such behaviour is not conducive of a productive debate and that it stands in the way of creating an inclusive, respectful environment. When you heckle someone, you are preventing them from telling their story, their experience. And seeing someone be heckled creates a culture of intimidation, in which people suppress their voices and unique stories for fear that they will go through the same. At U of T, we should strive to be as open an inclusive as we can. Everyone, as I mentioned last week, has something to contribute to our discussions and we should help to create an atmosphere that nurtures positive, constructive discussion, not stifle it. Before we heckle someone, we should stop and ask ourselves: am I really contributing something worthwhile to the discussion? How will I look to my peers? Am I setting a good example?
This is certainly not limited to student governance at U of T. It applies to all aspects of life at U of T. A few weeks ago, when I was going to write a midterm for one of my classes, things didn’t go as planned. The test was delayed 40 minutes (but this was a two-hour test for a three hour exam, so nobody lost time), and people were annoyed. That being said, our professor was new and the midterm was being written in two locations at once. When the midterm was about to start, a TA said “sorry, guys these things happen, unfortunately” and people started to heckle her a little bit. Even in stressful situations such as this one, we should not let our tongues get the best of us.
In a campus where mental health is an issue, students face enough pressures from school, commuting and generally just living life. We shouldn’t make things harder on each other. You may not see your words as having an effect: but words can be like daggers, and they can hurt people’s feelings. From here on out, let us all make an attempt to make sure that in the interactions we have on campus that we are projecting positive energies, that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Make tea, not trouble.
Last week of class U of T, have a good one!