A response to the “Taking the Pulse of campus projects” editorial from the Sept. 21 issue.
By: Shaarujaa Nadarajah
From being an SRA member to being on the Board of Directors, I have always tried to take criticism with grace. I am a strong believer in the notion that there are always ways we can improve as a community and the day I choose to reject feedback was the day I fail as a representative member. However, in my time as a representative, I have also recognized the value of using my voice to share perspective — maybe a perspective someone hadn’t considered and one that is integral to conversations we were having.
As a member of the 2016-2017 board, I can answer the first question posed in the editorial. I’ve held a Pulse membership for the last four years and am a frequent user of the facility. In my time as a Pulse user, one thing that was blatantly apparent was that the Pulse was overcrowded. But I wasn’t the only student that recognized this need as countless surveys sent out in the years before my term indicated that students wanted to see improvements being made to their athletic and recreation space.
Years of on the ground feedback collected by boards before us set the foundation for a space referendum to be sent to students where they directly got to vote on fee increases and whether this was a project they wanted the MSU to invest time and resources into. I guess the “true vanity” in this project came when the referendum failed by 10 votes the first time and how we had to go knocking on every administers’ door day after day begging the university to invest money into this project because that is what students asked us to do.
Construction takes time and expansions can’t happen overnight, however. The athletics department discussed in length the measures they would take to address the increased traffic they foresaw happening by planning to open up a pop up Pulse for students by end of October and by extending gym hours.
I will admit having an overcrowded gym is an inconvenience, but alternatively, I would gladly wait five more minutes for an elliptical if it means hundreds more students were taking advantage of their membership. I am willing to endure the short term pains to ensure the long term gains of working to build a healthier campus together. Are you?
But an overcrowded Pulse was just a small moot point in the greater systemic problem the writer was examining that was calling to question whether board members should work on long term projects. Making reference to Teddy’s failed Perspectives on Peace initiative and Ehima’s gender neutral bathrooms, the article does a good job of highlighting that one year is, in fact, a short time frame to work on some student projects.
However, what the article failed to recognize is the follow through these projects had years beyond these Presidents’ terms in office. After Teddy’s term, he went to work for Patrick Deane where he began the Model UN Conference, which was founded on the same principles as Perspectives on Peace and now continues to run as a yearly conference. As for gender neutral bathrooms, sustainability of projects are just as important to consider with the MSU’s yearly turnover and the gender neutral project is a true representation on how the MSU continued to work with the Equity and Inclusion Office to carry this project between multiple board terms because it remained a priority for students. In fact, I doubt many students even associate gender neutral bathrooms with Ehima any longer.
In order to leave a legacy, people need to remember you actually worked on the project. Using the expansion as an example, I hardly think three years from now students will even remember what board was responsible for initiating this project. All that will be seen is the hundreds of students who no longer have to eat their lunch on their ground or the religious faith groups on campus who will finally have a prayer space. The reality is we don’t do these projects for the vanity. We don’t spend over 60 hours a week working on these projects because we want the recognition. We do it because we care about students.
Students critique board members of coming short in making large-scale changes for them during their one year terms. However, when they attempt to take on large projects, they are critiqued for their lack of forethought in picking projects they can complete in their term. So, what I have come to realize is that whatever you do, you will always be faced with criticism. And that is okay because that is part of the challenge that comes with representing such a diverse population of 22,000 students here at McMaster.
So, I guess I will end it off here and bid you all farewell until the next 600 word article is written about us.