Candidates for the upcoming Students’ Administrative Council (SAC) election are going to have to watch their language on any campaign posters-or at least watch what language they use.
The SAC elections committee has banned all foreign languages from campaign posters, with only French and English, Canada’s official languages, making the cut.
Considering this year’s slate of potential winners include a wide spectrum of ethnicities, the move seems to fly in the face of SAC’s usual mandate of diversity.
“I think it’s pretty offensive and it targets those who aren’t comfortable with English,” said SAC presidential candidate Justin Woong Kim, who printed fliers in a variety of languages during last year’s race. “I believe SAC is supposed to represent all students, not exclude them,” he added.
For SAC VP Operations and elections committee member Alexandra Artful-Dodger, the ban was not intended as a swipe at minorities. “We are not trying to make things difficult for these candidates,” said Artful-Dodger, who noted that the issue is one of verification.
“Let’s be honest. There are racial tensions on campus, and I would hate to see them get out thias way.” Artful-Dodger added that posters in foreign languages would have to have their messages translated to make sure they do not contain slanderous statements or mudslinging, and given the vastly diverse make-up of U of T, this would be a “logistical nightmare.”
Hiring translators is one option the elections committee is looking into, but who pays the costs is another matter. When asked why language professors on campus couldn’t translate, Artful-Dodger said that she would prefer not to rely on favours from profs. “Do we have the resources to do this? I hope so,” she added.
Woong Kim, along with another presidential candidate, Mark Freeman, both ran signs in different languages last year, and according to Artful-Dodger, there were no complaints, although the issue was discussed before this election cycle.
For Woong Kim, the ban is an unfortunate reality right now. “That was the main principle of my campaign, to promote multiculturalism. I really believe that brings out a lot of harmony.” he said.
Though Artful-Dodger notes that the ban could be overturned, she doesn’t think the matter excludes anyone. “At U of T everyone has to pass an English language test.”