Dec2017, Opinion&Letters
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Destination Quest: Can’t Complain Unless You Show Up

By Olivia Plunkett, Bobbi Anderson, and Austyn Jasper

Hey, fast fact – Amongst all those emails we got sent about Destination Quest, did you know that its primary goal is to “[move] from [a] conceptual statement to a concrete description of what Quest will look like, 5 years hence, as we manifest that Vision, embody our Mission, and aspire to put our Values into practice”? Sounds like a big deal to us.

It’s a good thing that the Quest “community” is made up of “Questies,” who have very little to argue about. So when Destination Quest events run this coming week, on Wednesday, December 6th, at 10:30, in the MPR, no one is going to have much to grumble about, yeah? We’re sure that’s not the case.

Over the past month, a group of students have been doing their best to gather on a regular basis to come up with some cohesive avenue for student organizing to do more than grumble. Throughout this process, we’ve spent more time trying to find a time to meet than actually meeting. Given the overwhelming time commitments placed on us by class, homework, friends, and the block system, it seems like student organizing is almost incompatible with the timeframe in which Quest functions.

In addition to the endless demands on Quest students’ time, an additional barrier to student organization catalyst exists; a sense of caution and trepidation around ensuring accurate “student representation.” So once students find a time to meet, they struggle to come up with feasible moves to stage demonstration or public means of organization, because they’re too afraid of offending each other!

Why does this barrier exist? Why is creating a public, organized, student voice a competition or threat? How is it that students are satisfied just “letting it go,” when the same problems happen time and time again within this institution? It seems that preserving a sense of camaraderie and friendliness belies the effort and complication inherent in student organizing.

So besides dragged asses and complaints with lifespans of 48 hours, what are the repercussions of a false sense of student camaraderie and mediocrity on this campus?

Well, we have tutors running away from Quest like it’s on fire. We have a First Nations Initiative paused and waiting. In responding to questions of conflict of interest regarding two members of the Board of Governors’, President Iwama’s response suggests that these members’ “good intentions” are reason to avoid questioning their positions on the board. We have student complaints that are unable to be addressed due to the lack of a systemized submission process, and then we have instances like the “reconciliation” installation that took place on the final Friday of last block, led by Christine Selda (a re-occurring Self, Culture, and Society tutor who has also taught Expressive Arts Therapy). Dissatisfaction and evidence of the mistreatment of scholarship, experience, and history continue to surface. Meanwhile, we have faculty and staff working to establish initiatives (in addition to tutoring all our complaining selves) that go unacknowledged by the student body.

Why these missed opportunities? What kind of review processes take place that allow the lack of oversight in the hiring of faculty? How can students get over their fear of confronting each other? Why is student action not focused on upholding initiatives that are already in place? As we approach the upcoming campus-wide Destination Quest events, how can we hold each other and Quest accountable when working towards an institutional future rife with change and collaboration?

It’s vital that while Quest looks forward, students acknowledge the immense amount of work and careful intention that’s been put into developing systems and relationships such as the Diversity & Equity Committee (D&E) and the First Nations Education Initiative. Advocating for structural interventions and plans is one way that students can rally behind past initiatives for future outcomes.

The first of these two initiatives, the First Nations Education Initiative at Quest University Canada, was founded in the winter of 2016 between a group of faculty, students, and administration, in collaboration with members of the Squamish Nation, additional local First Nation members, and institutional collaborators. This initiative aims to “move forward toward a reciprocal long-term institutional relationship between the First Nations and Quest”, according to Quest’s 2017 Executive Report. As of right now, this initiative is halted—a severe blow to the University’s attempts to develop a positive lasting relationship with the Nation.

The lack of transparency in the hiring process, as well as a lack of student organizing on campus, directly impedes the efforts and actions behind such initiatives. How do we, as a student body, assure that such initiatives are further and institutionally upheld? Again, the answer lies in our participation in institutional planning processes such as Destination Quest.

The Diversity and Equity Committee, the second of these two initiatives, states the following; “Our vision is to equip our community members with the language, perspectives, and resources to critically analyze and take thoughtful action to address internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic forms of oppression and privilege.” Quest directly defies these intentions by privileging the scholarship and bodies of White, Western scholars.

Raising our concerns as a student body, explicitly approaching issues of transparency and representation on this campus, and making demands that address these concerns are all starting points. However, this requires Quest students, faculty, and administration to change their current status of skepticism, stagnancy, and complaint to generate accountability and action; Destination Quest is one such opportunity to do so.

This Wednesday, December 6th, students have been invited to engage in what has been coined “Destination Quest.” A series of workshops and conversations focused on “[moving] from our Mission, Vision, and Values statement to develop a concrete vision of our future” (e-mail from George Iwama, November 28th). Larger conversations around the lack of transparency in the hiring process, internalized oppression on this campus, and its direct repercussions can be addressed in the context of determining what we want from this institution. As student organizing appears excruciating and more often than not, seemingly unfeasible, here is an organized attempt being offered to students by the Quest executive team including the president himself, to have a say in Quest’s future. To establish first steps towards changing the ways this school’s priorities and values are upheld and institutionalized, we urge you to show up and SPEAK at Destination Quest.

If you’re not able to show up, at the very least, please fill out the Destination Quest Survey at: https://questu.ca/contribute-plan-survey/.

 

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