Western's Caucus on Women's Issues

Fall ll-2001 Newsletter


Caucus is sad to announce the death of one of our members. Heather had volunteered to serve on the Caucus Executive this year but was prevented from doing so when she was diagnosed with cancer this summer. In her memory Caucus has made a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society. The following is excerpted from the Halifax Daily News.

HUESTON, Heather Patricia - passed away in the QEII Health Sciences Centre on October 4, 2001 at the age of 39. Courageous daughter of Geraldine Dunnigan, Bedford and Terry Hueston, Fairview. Loving sister of Lisa, Seattle, Wash.; Adam, Vancouver; and D'Arcy, Kentville. Heather was a student at the University of Western Ontario where she had completed the first years of the Masters Program in Classics. Prior to returning to school, Heather was a journalist in Vancouver, White Horse and Halifax where she worked as a reporter for the Halifax Herald. Heather was a graduate of Dalhousie University and served as editor of the Dalhousie Gazette and the University of Kings College. Memorial service will be held 9 a.m. Tuesday in St. Ignatius Church, Bedford. Interment will be in Heather's birth place, Ottawa, at a later date. If desired, remembrance may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society. The family wishes to thank the Oncology Staff of 8A of the Centennial Building, QEII for their outstanding care and kindness. Arrangements have been entrusted to T.K. Barnard Funeral Home, Bedford.

As many of you no doubt know, UWOSA had been facing the prospect of striking or being locked out over the Christmas holidays. Happily, last minute negotiations over the weekend have resulted in a tentative agreement. The strike vote that had been scheduled for Friday afternoon has been replaced by a ratification information meeting. At that time, the negotiating team will present to the members of UWOSA, in detail, the tentative agreement that was reached on Saturday evening. In addition, members will be given a synopsis of the changes that have been brought about by these negotiations as they arrive at the meeting on Friday. More information can be obtained at the UWOSA website.

"On "The Dynamics of Power," A Presentation by Jane Elliott"

An audience numbering an estimated 300 attended a lengthy presentation on October 17 by the dynamic diversity trainer Jane Elliott. The event was part of a speaker's series organized by four London consultants under the name "Rekindle the Excitement", with support from the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services and 23 southwestern Ontario agencies.

Unlike much corporate diversity training, Elliott's focus is on changing racist and sexist behaviour rather than attitudes. In challenging discrimination that occurs through everyday behaviours, Elliott seeks justice and respect, not love or tolerance, across the boundaries of race and gender. She emphasizes that each person is responsible for dealing with his or her own racism and sexism: "to sit back and do nothing is to co-operate with oppression", and amounts to a choice to practice racism and sexism. Challenging the assumptions that "differences don't matter" and that "we're all the same under the skin," Elliott observes that "white people discussing racism have an experience of shared ignorance".

Elliot's message grows out of her efforts to understand and deal with the racism in her own life and background in the U.S. She introduces herself as a 67 year old white woman born in a racist society, educated in racist schools and churches, and schooled in myths of white superiority.

Elliott's career as anti-racism speaker began with an experiment that Elliott, a former elementary school teacher, conducted with her third grade class over thirty years ago in the farming community of Riceville, Iowa. She created the experiment as a personal response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, in an effort to help her class to understand how racism harms individuals. Elliott divided the class of 16 by eye color, telling the class that blue-eyed people are superior and brown-eyed people are inferior; the next day, the tables were turned. Elliott was shocked at how quickly the children appeared to become what she, the teacher, told them they were. Children labeled as inferior responded with tears and anxiety while those labeled superior adopted behaviours of dominance and abuse of power. She stopped the exercise earlier than planned because "too many ugly things were happening in the classroom." The children expressed relief and a sense of freedom when the experiment was ended, however Elliott and her family had to face the rage of their community in the aftermath of her experiment. In her London presentation Elliott showed the film "The Eye of the Storm", now dated, but still an absorbing depiction of her experience. She suggested that there were long-term positive effects on the children who had participated.

The impact this experience had on Elliott's students raises the question of what we are doing in our university classrooms to challenge our students and confront their biases. One wonders what could be accomplished in our university classes if we had the courage and commitment to our students' learning to attempt such creative experiential pedagogy.

Jane Elliott is a provocative and entertaining speaker with a personal, humorous and interactive style. She invited a man and a woman from the audience to join her on the stage and participate in her exploration of how maleness, tallness and whiteness confer power and privilege in interpersonal interactions. Commenting on a man's admission that his gender gives him power, she pointed out that "holding people who have power responsible for what they do with that power is not male-bashing".

Elliott's concern is individual behaviour and self-examination, rather than social structure and social change. Her presentation does not clarify the "dynamics of power" and the relationship between racism at the individual or interpersonal level and racism as structural, systemic or institutionalized. Her message is one of personal transformation: "each of us has a civil rights movement going on inside us, and as we progress in that movement we move the whole society".

Concerning Women's Caucus

Potluck/Brainstorming Session January 22, 2002

Members, as many of you know, Caucus has a Chilly Climate account made up of funds collected from our percentage of the sales of the videos. There are restrictions on the account: the money may only be used towards chilly climate projects. Last time we wanted to spend some of these funds, a bunch of people got together for a potluck-brainstorming session. The result was the Backlash to Change videos. Well, we've still got a healthy sum, and it's probably about time we took another stab at doing something about the chilly climate. So, there will be a potluck and brainstorming session at my house, 279 Hyman Street, upper unit, on Tuesday, January 22 at 6:30 p.m. I'll circulate a notice closer to the date. Please plan to be there!- Tracy Isaacs, Caucus President

Each year, Caucus presents the Montreal Memorial Award to a female engineering student entering her second year. This year we were pleased to award the prize to Karen Dawson. Karen achieved the highest average amongst a very strong cohort of women in the first year engineering class.Congratulations, Karen!

This is the last year I will be putting the newsletter together (really!). In the hopes of fostering a smooth transition for whoever takes over I am hoping that someone will come forward now. This way I can show her the way I do it and she can figure out how to do it better before she even begins. Putting the newsletter together is not overly arduous (at least, not when one is using an email format). It's a great way to find out all sorts of interesting things about stuff happening on campus and off. It's also a satisfying job for someone like me who is a control freak, though I imagine other kinds of people might find it satisfying too. I like to think the newsletter is an important part of the Women's Caucus. If you agree the best way to say it's worth doing is offering to do it yourself! - Letitia, Newsletter Editor (but not for much longer!)

The impending stewardship of the chilly climate tapes and a request for poetry (as yet undiscovered) published in a newsletter roughly 20 years ago has prompted much discussion in executive meetings about putting together an archive. As it stands, such archive as we have resides in bags, boxes and folders hidden deep within the bowels of Alumni Hall. It is, however, incomplete. So, if you have Caucus materials that go back some years let us know.

It's not too early to be thinking about the Women's Caucus Essay Award. Packages have been sent out across campus to instructors who may have student essays eligible for the award. The packages consist of a letter about the award and the process, a flyer, and rave cards that can be attached to any promising essay prompting students to submit. Both graduate and undergraduate students are eligible. Submissions should be sent to Romayne Smith Fullerton, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Middlesex College. The deadline is not until May 31, 2002 but essays from the fall term can be submitted now if students wish. Three printed copies are required.

Caucus Members' Activities

Kathy Kopinak has been awarded a fellowship at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California at San Diego, and will be spending the first six months of next year in La Jolla, California. The title of her project is "The Environmental Impact of Rapid Industrialization in Baja California, and Citizen-led Efforts to Reduce and Avoid Its Risks." From her previous research and in developing the proposal, she has learned that "Citizen-led Efforts" usually means women and minority groups.

Caucus Members - Your Dues Are Due

Two years ago the Women's Caucus instituted a policy whereby all membership renewals would come due each September. This has greatly facilitated the administration of Caucus finances and the membership list. September has come and gone and so all members who wish to renew their membership, but haven't done so yet need to do so now. You may either send a cheque to the Caucus treasurer, Stephanie Macleod in Education FEB 1001.

New Caucus Members

Anyone employed either part-time or full-time by the university or its affiliates is eligible for membership. The current membership includes staff, graduate students and faculty members representing most academic and non-academic departments.

This Newsletter

If you have comments or concerns regarding the format or the content of the Women's Caucus Newsletter, please feel free to contact me, Letitia Meynell. Thanks to Jenifer Meynell for her assistance with the newsletter.

Newsletter html file created and posted on the web by Sylvia Burrow


Contact Us | Site Map | Search