President Mark Solomon calls on CACUSS members to Learn, Unite, Act.June 1, 2020
The following is an advance copy of Incoming CACUSS President Mark Solomon’s message in the Spring 2020 issue of the CACUSS Communiqué magazine
Incoming President’s Message
by Mark Solomon
Aanii!!! (Hello) I am Mark Solomon, Dean of Students and Indigenous Education at Seneca College, proud member of Henvey Inlet First Nation, father, partner, and the incoming president of CACUSS – in fact, the first CACUSS president who is Indigenous. This is my third or fourth attempt at this message. Previous drafts included me lamenting about not having a conference this year, the incredible work done by student affairs across Canada to serve students in the pandemic, and how relationships are more important now than ever.
I will tell you, my mind is preoccupied with the murder of George Floyd. As I write this, it is day three of unrest across America, the rallying cry of “No Justice, No Peace” is being answered. There is a long-standing pattern of police killing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour). I am unclear when this message will be published and when you will read this, but I am not confident that between now and then, there will not be another death of similar circumstances.
I watch the unrest and immediate militarization of the police in reaction to these cries for justice. I also saw the police indifference to armed end-the-lockdown protests. The measures taken by police in both cases saw a different response based upon skin colour. We should be shocked that the unarmed BIPOC have a military-like response while the armed protesters are allowed to walk into government buildings brandishing military-looking weapons. But we are not shocked. Do you feel uneasy about that? I certainly do.
In Canada we often judge our neighbour’s backyard and while ours is just as unkempt. Canadians were shocked to learn that the woman who called, and weaponized, police on a man of colour in New York was one their own. Canada has a history of systemic racism built right into its fabric. I can give countless examples for Indigenous peoples, people of colour, members of our Pride community, women, new Canadians… but Communiqué does not have enough space…
I am angry at myself. I am a white coded, straight, Indigenous man. Would “Othered” people call me an ally? Have I earned that title? CACUSS as an association is beginning a conversation about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Indigeneity. Most recently, the board called for leadership from our members who were reflective of that conversation. The membership responded and we have one of, if not the, most diverse CACUSS boards in the 47 years of the association. Is that enough?
I have sat complacent in many boardrooms, not just at the CACUSS board, and realized I was the diversity quota. By myself – again, white coded; thus, if you saw a picture, you would not know I was Indigenous – I would sit in those rooms. I did point that out when I was younger, but I have aged and maybe built a callous to it all.
I would like us as an association, as a community, as humans to learn, unite and act. Coincidentally, “Learn, Unite, Act” was the theme of the 2020 Tkaronto:Toronto CACUSS Conference. I purposed that theme, as what I have done as a member:
- Learn from my colleagues
- Unite as a professional association
- Act as a community
I would like us now to repurpose that theme:
- Learn from BIPOC, women, LGTB2sQQ*, Othered communities
- Unite and uphold community
- Act when they call
Diversity cannot simply be a value statement, a “value add”, or photo op. Diversity is now a matter of life and death.