This letter was written by the OCAD Student Union executive team and the leaders of the Muslim Student’s Association (MSA) at OCAD U. It was written due to a lack of response on the matter on the part of OCAD University administration. As a result of this letter and an outpouring of support from members of the OCAD U community, a space was found and is currently being finalized for use.
Dear President Sara Diamond and Vice Provost, Students & International Deanne Fisher
On Friday, February 3rd, the Student Union met with the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) to discuss what we could do to support the student group in light of the racist and Islamophobic policies passed by the president of the United States, the subsequent attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, and the spike in violent attacks on Muslim communities across the globe including anti-Islamic graffiti that was found right here in OCAD U’s yellow stairwell on the 2nd floor.
While we appreciate the sentiments expressed in President Diamond’s Statement on the U.S. Executive Order, we believe that given the current political climate, it is important that OCAD U activate this statement by moving forward on several requests the MSA has brought to your attention:
- The immediate assignment of a dedicated Multi-Faith Space on campus. Since the SU met with Vice Provost Deanne Fisher on January 16, 2017, where the MSA spoke to the lack of a clean, consistent, and safe space for prayer on campus, as well as the lack of respect for authorized prayer room bookings at the Lambert Lounge by different departments of the university, the MSA was again approached by two separate parties to ask that they move their prayer space from the Lambert Lounge to accommodate for alternate programming. This is unacceptable. As stated during the meeting, OCAD is the only post-secondary institution in the City of Toronto that does not have a Multi-Faith Space. The University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University, Humber College, Seneca College, and George Brown College, have all ensured the designation of a Multi-Faith Space. It is dehumanizing and unsafe that Muslim students have been left with no other option than to pray in the stairways or hallways of the institution on too many occasions. We ask that swift action be taken to assign a permanent Multi-Faith Space by Friday, February 17th. Room 287 and room 284 has been identified as a potential spaces to meet this need. We ask that this be solidified as a permanent Multi-Faith Space, with full institutional support. This support includes updating signage for the room, removing the existing tables and other equipment, removing the room from the room booking portal, and a notification on the OCAD U website.
We cannot prolong this process any longer. It is impacting the dignity and safety of Muslim students on campus. OCAD U must ensure that Muslim students are able to pray in comfort and in peace.
- An implementation of an educational campaign on the OCAD U campus condemning Islamophobia. The current political climate and the escalation in hate crimes beg for an educational institution such as OCAD U to educate their students about ending Islamophobia and racism on campus now. We demand that the university adopt such an initiative promptly by working with the MSA in developing this campaign.
We must all work to end Islamophobia, racism, and white supremacy where we stand. We must work to create safe spaces for Muslim students in our communities and at OCAD U. We ask that OCAD U takes action on these tangible requests immediately. We expect a timely response from you that outlines steps you will take to meet these urgent needs by Friday, February 17th, 2017.
The Muslim Students’ Association & The OCAD Student Union