To the Editor,
I’m writing this letter in response to the recently published “Nepotism in Skule” article which, as most people are aware, has tensions flaring and emotions running high. In it, I want to address and challenge some of the specific opinions expressed by the author as well as share and expand upon some of my experiences and opinions and how I’ve seen positive changes in the Skule community in the years I’ve been here.
One of the biggest things I noticed in the article is the author’s opinion that Skule consists of the Trinity, and by nature of them thinking the Trinity is exclusive they think that Skule is exclusive. Skule consists of more than the Trinity and that is not an opinion one can hold. Taken from the website, the clubs list headings are “Athletics, Cultural, Design Teams, Fine Arts, Hobby and Interest, Musical, Professional Development, Community”. One can certainly hold the opinion that, since the Trinity are the three pillars of student life and Skule spirit, that they are perhaps the most visible and well-represented groups within Skule. However, the more than 80 clubs within Skule all proudly bear that name because they are part of that community. I think the author could have given more insight to this disconnect and lack of sense of community if they had asked why students don’t feel part of Skule, despite being involved with various clubs outside of the Trinity.
I want to make clear an opinion of my own regarding clubs, including the Trinity. Recognition, or “being part” of something should not be the end-goal of one’s involvement in a club or group. I personally think that students should join clubs or groups because it makes them happy to do so – for me, that is giving back to the community and helping people the way others helped me before. For some, that may be because they enjoy working with tools, playing a specific sport, or bettering themselves or improving on a specific skill in some other way. For others, it may be a way to de-stress and spend time with friends. Regardless, something important to note is that these are all driving goals – they don’t stop motivating you once you join said group. If your end-goal is simply to join something for the sake of joining it, and perhaps getting a title and hard hat, then once you’re in, you’ve accomplished that goal. What’s driving you to continue to want to make that club or the community better?
I’m not saying recognition, especially for hard work, is a bad thing. Most people, if not all, want to be praised in some way for the work they do. And that is valid. But just because one is not “in” with the Trinity, or any other group, does that discredit all the work they’ve done for it, especially to make the community better? I don’t think it does. Is there a better way to recognize the contributions Skuligans have made, in the various and far-reaching ways they have? I don’t think that having a specific position within a specific group is the only way. I’m not sure that there’s an easy way to address this type of issue – it is not an issue exclusive to the Skule community. However, as aspiring engineers-to-be, that shouldn’t be an issue at all. We are problem solvers, and we want to make the world a better place. We shouldn’t shy away from issues, especially ones like this that hit so close to home.
It upset me that the author seemed to present no solutions or suggestions to the various – incredibly real and valid – issues within the Skule community. More specifically, they broadly accused the entire community of not recognizing any issues – again, something I would argue is not an opinion but a point that simply isn’t true. One point that may not be known to some of the younger years is the relatively recent changes to songs and chants. Many songs have been cut entirely from F!rosh week because of their offensive and often sexist tones, while others have been modified. In 2015, a contest was put forward for new verses for Godiva’s Hymn, as many were outdated and no longer representative of the Skule community. For both the 1T6 and 1T7 F!rosh weeks, changes have been made so that instead of saying “Who do we hate?” we instead say “Who do we irritate?” in reference to “Artscis” or arts and science students, based on feedback from students. Something to note is that these changes do take time to implement and I think it does fall on the prominent and visible leaders (“leedurs”) to ensure these things do happen and get carried out into the community as whole. In that case, maybe enough isn’t being done by said leedurs and how these changes are carried out needs to be evaluated. However, that is simply scratching the surface of the changes made. Efforts to destigmatize mental health have increased, especially in the past two years with the Mental Wellness directorship position being created. Queer Sphere is a new club within Skule to raise LGBTQ+ awareness and have run successful events already. To say that Skuligans aren’t aware of the flaws within the community or that nothing is being done to address them completely dismisses the hard work students have put in, especially in the last few years. We have a long way to go, certainly, but that doesn’t mean tremendous progress hasn’t been made and its impacts being felt.
Another change that happened in F!rosh Week 1T8 was to the mysterious cards the author mentioned early in the piece. Yes, in past years they were given to more outgoing students and told to keep it on the down low. However, this year, leedurs were encouraged to give cards to a variety of students and to tell frosh to ask their peers about what it meant. The cards were redesigned so that more than one card was required to fully decode the message, so that frosh would have to talk to others. This was done to not only encourage frosh to talk to frosh from other groups, but also so that more people would have the opportunity to make it to the event. Was this a success? I don’t know. I would have to talk to frosh about it, or perhaps the organizers of the event, to see if it made any difference. I hope it would have.
Overall, I think the author did a good job at pointing out many issues, some of which I don’t have the time right now to research further, such as those regarding Bnad Leedurs, B&G and BoD elections, and about international vs. domestic student involvement in different clubs. However, I think that overall, the article discredits so much work Skuligans have done and is paying off. It doesn’t appear that the author tried to consider what’s being done by leaders within the community, or ask what changes are planned.
It is obvious that the article has already sparked debate. However, for there to be real change, there obviously must be real action taken by student leaders, and that only comes from constructive criticism and honest feedback. Complaining about things will do nothing, especially if one is bitter about issues. I encourage all students to look at the groups or communities they are involved in within Skule and ask themselves if they’re doing enough. If they’ve reached out to underrepresented groups. If they’re asking for constructive feedback. If how they perceive themselves is different than how others perceive them. And to not only discuss questions such as those, but to act on them. We are all part of Skule, and we can all make it better. Yes, the onus may be on specific Skule leedurs to spearhead major projects, but never doubt your influence.