I used to be a Mac engineering undergraduate and I’m currently an engineering graduate student. In light of the recent events involving the Redsuits, I’ve felt compelled to write this letter as I feel my faculty’s representatives have been unfairly disciplined. I must admit, during my undergraduate time I was never a Redsuit and I even found them somewhat annoying and obnoxious. It seems a hint of sweet irony to me that I now write in their defense, but I feel the University has acted swiftly without being consistent in their judgment of student groups at McMaster. If McMaster is legitimately concerned with eliminating ideals which stand in opposition to education, sexism, violence and discrimination, then it must judge all student groups the same.
My concern is do we judge all student organizations by any material with apparent ties to the organization in question, regardless of the strength of the evidence with regards to wrong action being committed? I do not dismiss the concerns of individuals who consider the material in this document to be offensive or indecent, but I see this application of academic discipline as reflexive and biased towards the Redsuits. McMaster University has many student groups which promote a variety of causes; sports, technology and various cultures. If the Redsuits are being suspended for these materials alleged (I use the word alleged as there is no evidence that these songs were ever sung on campus) as their property, then I can easily point to other student groups who explicitly promote documents much more abhorrent who do not face such scrutiny or discipline. Two student groups in particular, McMaster Catholic Student Association (MACSA) & McMaster Muslim Student Association (MACMSA), both promote literature with language and ideas which are vile in message and incompatible with a 21st academic environment. Does McMaster University hold MACSA and MACMSA accountable for the ideas found in their respective holy books? How should any member of McMaster’s LGBTQ community feel to know that MACSA and MACMSA are able to promote books, the Bible and the Qur’an respectively, which explicitly label homosexuals abominations and prescribe death for their homosexuals acts (Bible : Leviticus 18:22 /20:13/Qur’an: 7:80-81 / 27:54-55 )? Or how should the women of McMaster feel to know that both of these organizations can promote misogyny and the inequality of the genders; that women can be beaten (Qur’an 4:34), they are less than men (Qur’an 2:228b, 2:282), and should be stoned to death for pre-marital sex (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)?
The Redsuits were basically suspended because of a document on the Internet; both MACSA and MACMSA can promote their causes which are intrinsically tied to their holy scriptures and contain the repulsive and barbaric writings which stand in direct opposition to the values that McMaster supposedly holds and is using to justify the punishment of the Redsuits. How the university can allow religious student groups to promote theirs causes, which unquestionably include the barbarity I’ve outlined by the sheer virtue that they exist in their scriptures, and yet punish another group for a document which isn’t even officially endorsed by said group?
An inquisitive reader might respond, but the MACMSA & MACSA don’t promote the specific values and thoughts I’ve outlined, they don’t promote that specific part of the Bible or the Qur’an. It may be true that neither the MACMSA nor MACSA have posters or booths on campus promoting these specific tenants of their scripture, but by the logic expressed in the recent disciplinary actions of the University, you can’t have a Catholic or Muslim student group without endorsing the Bible or the Qur’an. The MACMSA and MACSA are allowed to promote their causes freely on campus, including their literature, yet another non-religious student group has some unofficial document tied to them on the Internet and they are suspended without hesitation.
The interests of these religious groups are much more self-serving than the Redsuits. Redsuits ultimately exist to promote engineering, and this is a university after all, we teach facts about science, mathematics, engineering, social sciences, medicine, literature and the arts. Yet McMaster University seems willing to afford more protection to religious groups who promote literature full of intolerance and violence than they will to their own faculties. The arguably tenuous link between this songbook and the Redsuits is enough to get an entire student group of hundreds of engineers suspended, while these religious students preach with impunity. This action is heavy handed and is punishing the majority for something a small minority of the group did.
Given the events that took place recently at other Canadian universities, it is easy to understand that McMaster University wants to avoid being associated with any behaviour considered intolerant. However, if McMaster truly wants to cultivate an environment which is free of intolerance, if must apply its judgment in an impartial manner. It can’t be denied that the Redsuits have contributed greatly to McMaster University, raising money for venerable causes via the Bus Pull (cystic fibrosis) and Santa Hog (Interval House Hamilton). Until it can be shown with evidence that the Redsuits in any official capacity distributed this document or promoted these songs on campus, it is hypocritical for them to be punished and yet allow student groups such as MACSA & MACMSA to continue operating. McMaster administration is cutting down the whole tree because of a few bad apples, bad apples that haven’t even been proven to have come from the tree in question. McMaster needs to provide better evidence as to why the Redsuits are being disciplined or commit to applying this same scrutiny to all student groups, not just the ones who make a lot of noise.
“We are the engineers, so pity us.”