I typically do not consider myself much of a writer, nor do I usually feel comfortable sharing my thoughts online. However, after a few conversations with some people who I really care about, I was inspired to give this a try…
I have done my best to remove myself from issues related to the USC this year for many reasons, but primarily because I left my position knowing that both the USC and the Student Events Portfolio were in great hands. While my opinion has not changed in the slightest, I also feel an obligation to show my support for these individuals, the work that they do, their desire to support and encourage student engagement, and the tough criticism that they are faced with each day.
On the note of tough criticism, it seems as though a year cannot go by without an uproar from the soph community. This has come in many forms and in response to many issues throughout the years. In many cases, these uproars can spark incredible discussions and constructive change within the Orientation Program. However, lately, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been cluttered with significantly more selfish and hurtful comments than constructive criticism and debate.
As for the current issue on the table, I will avoid detailing all of my thoughts. However, I will say that I strongly believe in the current soph selection process. While some current commentary would suggest that I have no right to an opinion on the issue since I was never a soph myself, I believe the USC, OGB, and OPC should be applauded for working so hard to ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity to contribute to the Orientation Program in a meaningful way. These changes mean the world to individuals who have previously felt isolated by the soph selection process. This is not to say that everyone who is currently a soph should not have been selected or that the work of previous sophs should be invalidated. Rather, this is to say that OGB and OPC have the right to determine the goals of the Orientation Program and select volunteers according to a specific set of criteria.
Despite my personal opinions, I am certainly not writing this because I expect everyone to agree with me or because I believe that there is only one way to look at this particular issue. I am writing this because it appears that many people have forgotten how to have constructive discussions that are focussed on issues rather than instigating hate-filled conversations aimed directly at individuals.
Here is what I have to say to these people: The people who are making the decisions that you dislike are not doing so to be malicious or to create any less of a positive experience for the incoming class of first-year students. They are doing so with the same desire that you have to create an inclusive, welcoming, and positive experience for every first-year student at Western. If you disagree with the decisions being made, that is perfectly fine. In fact, I would encourage you to consider areas of improvement and bring your ideas forward. But stop posting hurtful memes, creating parody twitter accounts, and hiding behind anonymous names in the comment sections of online articles. Unless something has drastically changed from my time in London, Western is a university that cares, encourages the expression of diverse opinions, and strives to create a community in which all students and staff have the right to feel comfortable.
As many people close to me know, I left the USC in pretty rough shape last year. This was primarily because of the way that I was treated by so many individuals who claimed that they were leaders in the Western community and role models to other students. I have since filed away many of the hateful emails that I received telling me that I was incompetent and destroying the first-year student experience. I have also saved many copies of The Gazette Report Card (in which I received a D+) to hang on the walls of my future classrooms as a reminder of how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and also as a reminder that words are powerful and have the ability to hurt people. While I would not trade my USC experience for anything, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of constructive discussion, debate, and a willingness to move forward despite differences in opinion.
To everyone working so hard to ensure that the student experience at Western is inclusive of all students, know that I am sending you all my love and support. The world needs more people like you.