Letter to the Editor: An open letter to the WLUGSA from a former president

Dear WLUGSA,

You are my friends and colleagues and for that reason I think it is prudent to be blunt and honest with you in regards to the sudden closing of Veritas Café.

Speaking as a past-president of WLUGSA, I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed by your actions over the course of the past few days. I keep waiting for you to ‘wake up’ and realize the mistake that you have made. Unfortunately, it is becoming ever clearer to me now that you either do not think that you have made one, or that in your realization, you do not think that you have a choice to back down. If it is the latter, then you need read no further. If it is the former, please allow me the professional curtesy as a past-president, to express my thoughts on your actions.

If I am to view this situation objectively, I find myself in full support of Dr. Williston’s open letter and personal position on the matter. What Sandor did, at best, can be identified as being an error in good judgement. He attempted to use humour to capture the attention of an apathetic student community, and in doing so, he regrettably offended one or more of your members. While this is unfortunate, everything that we do in this day and age will inevitably offend someone. While it is not my intent, I am relatively sure that the very letter I write to you here and now will offend someone.

Today, we live in a society that acts far too quickly and with too great a force. Unfortunately for you, this is especially true for the decision that was made by the WLUGSA Executive and Board of Directors to end the contract with Veritas Café.

Where you should have taken the time to reflect on the situation and consider the subsequent consequences of your decisions, instead you acted viciously, apathetically and with great haste. In doing so, you have cast a dark shadow over all student leaders who work with great care and precision to safeguard their students and to enhance their academic experience at each of their respective institutions.

Please do not make the further mistake of thinking that no one else understands the challenges that you are currently facing. As a past-president, I know the challenges that you face day-to-day and the expectations that lay upon your shoulders. But I too know that sometimes these challenges and expectations can also blur your vision.

Having watched this event transpire over the past few days, I realize that your actions demonstrate that we are all human and that each and everyone of us can ‘overreact’ in any situation where there is great pressure. As such, I want to ask you to do something and it is not an easy thing to do. I want nothing more than for you to place yourself in Sandor’s position. Take a minute to reflect upon the years of dedicated service that he has provided to you and your community and with all things considered, ask if your actions in this situation were just.

If you are still hesitant to correct your mistake, perhaps I can offer one further comment to guide your thinking.

If one lapse of good judgement is enough to condemn a man that spent the greater part of four and a half years supporting your community, then in turn, your own lapse of good judgment in this one situation is enough for your membership and the community to act against you. Relationships are everything in student government, do not let the mismanagement of your relationship with Veritas Café in this situation define you and your organization. Please consider that you have overreacted and begin to mend your broken relationship by taking corrective action with Sandor. Not doing so, could mean that this becomes the first misstep towards mismanaging other important relationships, such as with your membership, the University, WLUSU and other partners.

Your friend and colleague,

Robert P. Bruce
WLUGSA Past-President, 2014-15

19 Comments

  1. Matthew Davidson says:

    This would make a lot of sense if you replaced your words ‘we are all human’ with ‘we are all racist’ and ‘overreact in any situation where there is great pressure’ with ‘be racist publicly from time to time’. This is essentially what you are arguing for. Shame on you.

  2. Anthony Zambito says:

    Matthew Davidson I think you’really taking it a little out of context.

  3. Matt Davidson, you need to have your reading comprehension checked before you comment on an article. The author is arguing that the Grad association should not crumple immediately to pressure and should take time to consider all facts and opinions before rashly rushing to a decision. This “you don’t think the same way I do — You must be racist” argument is getting really tiring. There is no racism here, just a past president offering his thoughts and support in an open letter to the GSA.

  4. The actions of Sandor can in no way be misconstrued as “racist”. He did nothing to infringe upon anyone’s rights based on their race. Regardless of your stance on Sandor’s actions, please don’t dilute a serious discussion with baseless claims. Get offended by his ad if you want, just don’t misconstrue it to further vilify the man.

  5. Matthew Davidson says:

    ” He attempted to use humour to capture the attention of an apathetic student community, and in doing so, he regrettably offended one or more of your members” This sounds like the operator thinks slavery is funny. If the WLU organization has an cafe on campus that could be deemed to think that slavery is funny, or that it employs slaves, or the like, do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing for its organization? How will it affect its student recruitment efforts or its its brand image in the future?

  6. Matthew Davidson, the ad wasn’t the slightest bit racist. it did not mention nor did it even suggest anything to do with race. If the word “slave” is racist to you obviously don’t know what the word means.

  7. I agree with Matthew. While the restaurant owner didn’t mean to be racist, this letter definitely condones racist behavior. As a black person, I would never, apply for this job. It’s easy for you guys to say it . You have not suffered for hundreds of years. Let me ask you a question. What is the post said “Hiring Jews for my camp”. I’m sure you won’t have the same reaction.

  8. Assuming that the word “slave” is inherently racist is, in fact, racist. Almost every culture in the history of people has used slavery, just as often with people of the same racial background as they were, as not. Caucasians have enslaved Caucasians, Asians have enslaved Asians, Africans have enslaved Africans. Using the word slave is not, in and of itself, a reference to any particular race. Don’t try to project your own prejudices on someone else.

  9. The word slave does not come with an attachment to a singular race. There have been (and are – since there are an estimated 20-45 million slaves today, ranging from work in sweatshops to forced prostitution) slaves in every single culture. I don’t believe Sandor was promoting racism; that claim is unfounded. The negative connotations of slavery do not lie simply in one history and it is not right to bring that into this.

    I do believe the joke was in bad taste but was something that could’ve been rectified with a warning and a change in the ad. He made an error in judgement but was not trying to be malicious or hateful and I think it’s sad that now he is out of a job right before Christmas. Of course we shouldn’t be promoting insensitive speech but we also shouldn’t be shutting down someone’s livelihood because of a mistake – one without dark intent.

  10. Of course Jason. Your parents must be proud. No one suffered from slavery as much as Caucasians.

  11. >Almost every culture in the history of people has used slavery, just as often with people of the same racial background as they were, as not. Caucasians have enslaved Caucasians, Asians have enslaved Asians, Africans have enslaved Africans.

    >The word slave does not come with an attachment to a singular race.

    Yes, that’s it. Not insensitive at all. Being a Nazi should be fine too. Every race has done terrible things in the past.

  12. Dark Horse? If you were a slave in 21st century Canada, then we have much, much bigger problems to discuss. Does this mean if I say “I’ve been slaving away at work for 12 hours today?” , then I should be compelled by others to “check my white privilege” and be punished? Shame on all of this. All of this! It is disgusting that we are even having this conversation.

  13. Damian Wojcichowsky says:

    I came to Laurier 20 years ago – haven’t checked in on the Cord much since then – but this is the most disappointing news coming out of WLU in a long time. And here I had thought that good ole WLU might avoid the trend of brutal mob social justice that we’ve heard about on the news on other Canadian campuses.

    I was wrong. WLU sounds like it has become the exact same gong show assembly of arm flapping moralists as it seems you get at every Canadian school now.

  14. Don’t pull the black card. Human beings have been enslaving each other throughout history regardless of skin colour – whoever had the biggest guns got the most slaves, basically.

    Also, no mention of race was there, only the word “slave”. If that offends you, maybe try to understand that the world isn’t just about you.

  15. It pleases to see that some people are fighting back against this injustice. I hope this fight it the beginning of the end of people who think like Samantha Deeming and her love slave Matthew Davidson.

  16. Matthew – Intent matters. That doesn’t mean that ignorance should excuse the offense, just that it should temper the response.

    It seems clear that Sandor did not intend to offend anyone with the slave comment and was not considering any racial undertones that the term might carry. The experience of slavery is not specific to the African / North American slave trade nor, sadly, did it end with the Emancipation Proclamation. While the word “slave” carries baggage, it is not a direct slur and there’s no reason to believe that Sandor intended it as such.

    I think that his choice to use the word “slave” in the ad was a poor one, however the appropriate response would have been to explain to him why people might be offended by the ad and request a retraction / apology. Branding the man a racist and terminating his livelihood was extreme, arbitrary, and foolish.

  17. Matthew, good luck in the real world — you know, the place where people will occasionally make mistakes and are given the opportunity to learn from them.

    I hope you never ever make a mistake, bud. Ever.

  18. Ashley Meredith says:

    Matthew. “This sounds like the operator thinks slavery is funny.” As an adult you should be able to distinguish between a joke about something and support for something. The logical leap you just made could be used to demand the removal of half the books in the library, all of Shakespeare and so on. My ancestors were slaves on the sugar plantations of Trinidad and I ask you to check your white privilege and refrain from being offended on my behalf.

    As for your concerns about “student recruitment efforts or its its brand image”, I think you will find that the disproportionate response of the student Stazi has caused greater damage than an innocuous job ad on Facebook; as an example I am writing to you from rural France.

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