Dalhousie University is on track to introduce significantly more student members, including representatives from minority student groups, to its senate.
“This is a first step. Now that we have these representatives in the room, we start talking about the issues that actually affect these communities,” said John Hutton, a vice-president of the Dalhousie Student Union.
The changes were passed last month after the organization requested them.
Members voted to boost the number of student senate seats from seven to 22; several are for equity-seeking groups. There will also be representatives from all faculties.
“It had a lot of traction. It was a very popular idea, and the faculty and administration were happy to work with us on it, and it’s the first senate in the country that has actually done this,” said Hutton.
The board of governors still needs to approve the plan, which is expected to pass because of the school administration’s support, he added.
“My time at Dalhousie has been a time spent away from my community, and it’s been really hard,” said Dylan Letendre, former co-president of the Dalhousie Aboriginal Student Association.
Letendre said it’s important for indigenous issues to be looked at by the senate.
“We’re all trying to coexist in Canada, and I think that if we’re only hearing certain voices, then we’re not truly coexisting, we’re not really hearing each other,” said Letendre, who is Métis.
In the coming months, the next steps will be figuring out how the new senate members will be voted in.
“If we don’t have a complete sense of diversity within a learning environment, then […] you might as well go back to the 1800s and just teach that old history book which always spoke of one history and one story,” said Michael Davies-Cole, who is black and now represents the black students on the union’s council.
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