Student claims USSU hiring bias, will not return to Women’s Centre

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The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union is still facing criticism from students following the election protests in March. Three students are claiming that they were wrongly rejected for a position as a centre co-ordinator because of their affiliations with the student action.

Ashlynn Weisberg, a fourth-year women’s and gender studies student, is one applicant who is taking issue with the USSU. In a statement shared with the Sheaf as well as on Facebook, Weisberg states that this is her “final standoff” with the union and that she will not return to the Women’s Centre in the following year.

She explains that, while she appreciates all the student volunteers in the centres, she will “refuse to answer” to the USSU administration any longer, saying that they do not respect the safety of those students.

Weisberg says that she is unsatisfied that the USSU did not acknowledge that approximately 10 students wrote letters on her behalf to reconsider her for the position and that the hiring committee did not appeal their decision following the support for her. The statement posted on Weisberg’s Facebook page included their arguments.

“As select representatives of our Women’s Centre, we urge you to reconsider the decision to hire a lesser qualified candidate over senior applicants with greater levels of experience, both internally and externally… We argue that our voices and our understanding of our own community exceeds that of the USSU hiring committee… We urge you to follow your own mission statement and represent us in the way we see fit.”

The USSU centres are located in the Memorial Union Building.

The USSU has not yet announced who the incoming co-ordinators are; although, some students believe they have found out their identities through informal methods. However, the Sheaf was unable to confirm which students were selected for the positions as co-ordinators and whether or not those students participated in the protests.

When contacted to respond to the claims, Jason Kovitch, the business and services manager of the USSU, explained the difficulty in choosing students for the positions.

“Because of privacy issues, the USSU will not discuss the specifics of any individual hiring. One of the hardest things the hiring committee has to do is tell the people who are passionate about the centres that they were not chosen for the position. However, we are extremely pleased and excited about the incoming coordinators, and we are confident that they are going to do a fantastic job in the coming years,” Kovitch said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Kovitch said that the hiring committee consists of several representatives including the co-ordinator of the centre, an executive member of the union and one or two staff members knowledgeable about the student centres. He also reports that everyone who applied was interviewed.

On April 6, Weisberg received an email from Kovitch notifying her that she was not selected for the position. After her supporters emailed the union asking them to appeal their decision, Weisberg followed up with both Kovitch and Caroline Cottrell, the general manager of the USSU, to ask for a second interview.

Weisberg explains that the request was not for selfish reasons but because she felt responsible to the students who had vouched for her. She says that Cottrell responded to her email the following day with a statement that the hiring committee made their decision based on due process.

Two other students have also echoed Weisberg’s claims that the protests precluded them from the Pride Centre co-ordinator position. Thomas Gendzwill is a third-year women’s and gender studies student who applied for the Pride Centre position and received a rejection email on April 4. However, the third student was not willing to comment at this time.

Despite her grievances with the USSU, Weisberg expresses a heartfelt sentiment about her decision.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, and the thought of leaving my centre has completely broken me… Please know that the centres were more than just spaces for me — they are a piece of my heart,” Weisberg wrote on Facebook. “I will continue to fight for justice, and I will continue to fight for the centres. I just cannot be physically present in them any longer.”

Nykole King / Web Editor

Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor