In the face of national outrage, Carleton University Students’ Association says it will reverse its decision to cancel Shinerama, the school’s popular fundraiser for cystic fibrosis after it passed a motion saying the fatal disease is not “inclusive” enough.
The original motion, which passed 17 to 2 at the association’s Nov. 24 meeting, read: “Whereas Cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men…Be it resolved that: CUSA discontinue its support of this campaign.”
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In an interview with Maclean’s OnCampus, Smyth distanced the council from the controversial sentence on race and gender. Because it was a “Whereas” clause, she says they had no power to modify the sentence.
“It’s how our council has always operated. Even if we had wanted to change it we couldn’t have,” she says.
After the lightning-fast mobilization of Carleton’s student population, Smyth says the council will be holding an emergency council meeting to reverse their decision Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the school’s Porter Hall.
Immediately after the disputed vote, thousands of Carleton students flocked online in an effort to both organize and support grassroots rallies and fundraisers in support of the popular event.
“There will definitely be some resignations over this,” says graduate student Ashley Darch, who went to the school as an undergrad and is following, and participating in, the online controversy.
“Some people are saying we need a rally, some are saying that we need to make a very bold statement, and there is even an element that wants to impeach the CUSA executive.”
Darch says students are dismayed at how the media firestorm surrounding the issue has hurt the reputation of the university. A fundraising pub night is being held in Ottawa for tonight, and a “mini-Shinerama” rally is set to be held at the university tomorrow.
There have also been specific calls to impeach Donnie Northrup, the councilor who brought forward the motion in the first place. In an online statement, he says he still stands by the motion and CUSA’s decision to pass it.
“I genuinely believe the best way to do this is to rotate through charities,” he writes. “This is a chance to do something new and exciting; I don’t get the hype.”
Shinerama fundraising takes place during orientation week and has been happening at Carleton University for nearly 25 years. As a result, the school has raised almost $1 million for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The website of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation says the disease is most common in Caucasians but can affect all races. According to Wikipedia, “approximately 1 in 25 people of European descent and 1 in 22 people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent is a carrier of a cystic fibrosis mutation. Although CF is less common in these groups, approximately 1 in 46 Hispanics, 1 in 65 Africans and 1 in 90 Asians carry at least one abnormal CFTR gene.”
Wikipedia also notes that, “cystic fibrosis is diagnosed in males and females equally. For unclear reasons, males tend to have a longer life expectancy than females.” It is currently the most common fatal genetic disease affecting young Canadians, with an estimated 3,500 people living with the condition.
Lauren Guitar, a lead organizer of tomorrow’s rally in support of Shinerama, says she has someone in her life who has cystic fibrosis and planned to hold tomorrow’s rally regardless of how many people showed up.
“But when I woke up this morning, I had a dozen messages on my phone and multiple offers from people in the community who wanted to donate,” she says.
“I am a little angry with CUSA for how they worded their decision, but in a few hours we’ve managed to ignite the whole campus in support of this cause.”
Shinerama began in 1964 as a shoe-shining campaign and is now Canada’s largest post-secondary fundraiser. High-energy events are held at nearly 60 university and college campuses, where more than 35,000 student volunteers shine shoes, wash cars, run raffles and barbeques, and sing songs on street corners.
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