Wade Genders
The Silhouette

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.”

Author

Comments

  1. Another uneducated and useless defence of the Redsuits.You cannot begin to compare holy scripture with “songs” that promote rape, violence and mutilation. These religious doctrines were written thousands of years ago with intent to describe the way of life and are full of teachings, meanwhile these songs are written by clearly sick individuals with lots of time to come up with the most disturbing and vile versus for shock value. Well shock value is what they got. Unfortunately their freedom of speech impedes on others freedoms, and people are not particularly happy. There is no way anyone can defend this song book and in attempting to do so you just embarrass yourself. The Redsuits are not a worldwide religion; they are a group of school leaders. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    1. And yet those scriptures were (and still are) used as justification for wars and female oppression for centuries… Meanwhile the Engineering Faculty has elected a female president for the last 3 years in a row.

      1. The Muslim Students’ Association has also elected female presidents for the past 3 years and female senior advisors for the past 2.

        Of course judging by people’s tendencies to not do any research, and quote things out of context or evaluate unfamiliar ideologies with an open mind, I would expect that you’d be determined to prove other ways in which Muslims or Catholics oppress women.

        This article is a sad commentary on the state of the so-called educated masses which have bought into the overwhelmingly ignorant and uninformed criticisms of foreign ideologies.

        Open your mind. You just might learn something new.

        1. No one is calling for a ban on religious groups on campus. However if this new example sets the standard then it is hypocritical to exclude other groups which literature can be perceived by some to be offensive.

          The student group with songbook X contains material that is deemed offensive by some and was subsequently suspended, regardless of the group’s overall behaviour. For religious student groups with holy book Y that can be deemed offensive to some, they would fall to suspension too regardless of their behaviour.

          Is this the path that should be followed on criteria to ban student groups, regardless of how positive you or your group may be?

          1. No, it isn’t the path that should be followed?

            I just don’t understand this argument.

            If we banned x, and y is kind of like x, then we should ban y too!

            yeah! the eng song books are banned because they contain references to genitals! And bathroom door signs contain references to genitals to distinguish male from female! so we should ban bathroom signs! yeah!

            this is how you sound.

    2. If we’re playing the uneducated card maybe you should take a look at the content of the songbook that is allegedly tied to the MES. Do you honestly think students wrote those songs? No, it is a compilation of old rugby songs that have been around for years. Do YOUR research before attacking someone who clearly did theirs.

    3. Ma, can you really deny the sordid history of religion and its continuous role in oppression (Whether the oppression is based on culture, religion, or gender)? I AM Christian – I’m not criticizing a foreign ideology but recognizing the imperfections of my own. I’m also a recent female graduate of McMaster engineering, and maybe it’s just my experience but I felt nothing but continuous support.

      The point the author is trying to make is that McMaster supports groups who represent themselves with scriptures that have been associated with everything from the Crusades to women who get acid thrown on their face for wanting an education. If it can do this, then surely it can reconsider crucifying an organization (and by extension its faculty) for a scripture the faculty does NOT endorse or associate itself with.

  2. @Katherine

    It may not be as easily comparable. After all, the songs were made for many reasons… shock value, humour (whether you agree with it or not), or something else entirely.

    The religious doctrines that were written thousands of years ago give divinely inspired ‘moral’ guidance on how to act back then as well as today. While you can say the engineer songs promote rape, violence, and mutilation, there’s a difference between this shock humour (or whatever reason they have) and religious examples of genital mutilation, unfair punishment regarding the topic of rape to women, and rampant killing. These teachings further include discrimination to LGBT, endorsements of slavery, and so on. Religious groups base their core on these holy books.

    I’ve attended a religious group on campus for a year, and during some events found booklets freely available which spoke heavily about why it was wrong to be gay. It hinted at gay conversion on how gay people can be straight, with the power of God. Is this the “way of life” we should follow?

    This is the book that was available:
    http://www.amazon.ca/What-Christian-Attitude-Toward-Homosexuality/dp/1933114339

    “Is AIDS the judgement of God on homosexual practice?” (This line is part of the description of the booklet found, which could be considered “full of teaching”)

    If the university suspends a student group for a compilation made by a small group of students years ago, citing the material as hateful, violent, rape promoting etc, what about these other groups? I can assure you that nowhere in the doctrine of being an engineer does it involve mutilation, rape, or violence. On the other hand, I can easily find religious books that either endorse in its teachings the above, similar to what the author mentioned. Not even just the core book too, as these recent additions re-enforce these values.

    The Redsuits aren’t a worldwide religion, but makes no difference. That doesn’t give a free pass to the hateful contents of some holy books and accompanying material, and the groups which promote this should be given equal if not more consideration.

    For how I personally feel, none of the groups I indicated should be banned or suspended, be it the Redsuits, religious groups, or any combination for this type of literature. But if you’re going to do this heavy-handed action to a student group based on some unofficial book, you can more than easily make the case with the others.

    1. I think the line of argument here would be that the offending religious books offer some other kind of “value” that the university respects.

      I completely agree that the university probably shouldn’t respect it, but what are you going to do? Not allow religious student groups? (I think we should do this, actually. for real.)

      The problem comes for the redsuits when it comes to this “value”. There’s nothing in that redbook that has the “value” the university wants to protect, to consider it not a harm. Which kinda sucks considering its basically 40 years of oral history for McMaster Engineers; the university couldn’t give a shit about this tradition (because its a shitty one probably).

      The whole point of this is you continue to do what you’ve been doing and outgrow that history. Become something better.

      At least you guys get the chance, what reason does any other rep group have to really change things up?

  3. This has to be the most ridiculous piece of bigoted xenophobic discrimination I have ever read. It is appalling that the McMaster silhouette would publish an article that blatantly calls for the elimination of religious groups based on the author’s misinterpretations of their religious scriptures.

    I find it somewhat intriguing from a Jewish perspective, that the author does not name Jewish groups, even though Leviticus (ויקרא) is part of the Torah. The author’s fallacious reasoning necessitates calling for the elimination of all Jewish groups from campus, along with Catholics and Muslims, and hence his suggestion reeks of anti-semitism and Nazi ideology. The only reason the author doesn’t name Jews as well is because of this fear of being branded as anti-semitic Nazi – it’s a pity that he doesn’t have any hesitation when it comes to Catholics and Muslims.

    All of the scriptural quotes cited without exception, from both the Bible and the Quran, have been interpreted and understood by the vast majority of followers of these faiths to mean other than the narrow-minded interpretation the author pushes. If the author in his ignorance has never bothered to consult any scholarly references on scriptural exegesis of these passages, the followers of the world’s largest religions cannot be blamed for his stupidity.

  4. Can we drop the act, please? The Redsuits, as an organization, need to stop pretending that the fact that a few people put together the song book, somehow absolves the rest of them of responsibility. The songs might not be sung on campus, and they might not be sung by all redsuits, but they’re sung at faculty night and elsewhere, by some redsuits, and that’s enough. The redsuits who don’t sing the songs, but who allow them to be sung are just as guilty. Also, while I’m not religious, pointing out the wrongs of religion in attempt to justify the wrongs of redsuits is ridiculous. Yes, many religions promote some pretty awful things. I’m sure the author would say he holds himself to a higher standard of tolerance, so why would you want to allow these intolerant and offensive songs to go unpunished? Someone else getting away with doing something wrong doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye.

    1. @Adma: Wrong. The songs you are worried about are not song on Faculty night, and they have been eliminated from Welcome Week.

      The worst commentors are the senior students or alumni that never got involved in improving their Welcome Week experience, and just became bitter at the concept of a red jumpsuit… These commentors are uninformed and will never be convinced that anyone wearing a red jumpsuit might actually be better than the songbook, so for any comment-readers — these opinions are useless to argue with…

      1. Did you even read what he wrote? None of what you said absolves the redsuits of their responsibility to condemn this behavior and book.

  5. @jr

    Neither the article nor my previous point are making the comparison you were making, hence the article’s line “However, if McMaster truly wants to cultivate an environment which is free of intolerance, if must apply its judgment in an impartial manner.”

    If literature causes a student group to be banned we should not ban other groups having literature that just share *any* characteristic with that banned item (example, don’t ban engineer literature as it is an engineer song book, sharing the engineer theme). However, if that key characteristic causing the ban is shared with other literature affiliated with another group, then it should be considered equally.

    The group was banned as the literature contained “sexist, violent and degrading material”, according to the university as per the CBC article, along with other terms. With the comparison:

    The student group with the songbook contains material that is perceived as “sexist, violent, and degrading”. Regardless of the group’s overall behaviour, practices, or responsible individuals of this non-official literature itself the entire student body was suspended.

    If the university is banning student groups associated with literature that is “sexist, violent, and degrading” and this is the rule on campus, then this should apply equally to all student groups on campus. I am hoping this clears up any misconceptions.

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