Two amendments designed to change all 16 references to Trinity students from “Men and Women of College” to “Members of College” in the Trinity College constitution, and to desegregate the traditionally gender-segregated Trinity College Meeting (TCM) held at the end of each academic year, were voted down at the TCM on October 6.
Haley O’Shaughnessy, president of Rainbow Trinity, put forward both motions.
The motions were intended to accommodate people of all gender identities and expressions, reflecting the fact that not all students fit into the binary of ‘male’ or ‘female.’
“The amount of unnecessary cissexist structures at Trinity College is frankly ridiculous,” O’Shaughnessy said, alleging that the current constitution perpetuates the gender binary and does not recognize the rights of all Trinity students.
The constitution designates all students who pay Trinity student society fees as “Men and Women of College,” which leaves the voting privileges of non-binary students ambiguous. O’Shaughnessy added that, in practice, non-binary students have had voting rights, but only because Trinity College members do not recognize them as non-binary. Trinity College is the only college at the University of Toronto that refers to its members in terms of gender and has designated leadership roles for men and women.
Some students raised concerns that the amendments could hamper other gendered structures within Trinity College. O’Shaughnessy argued that having male and female representatives are quotas, rather than gender segregation. She further noted that having such a structure is one of the only ways the college can have more female leaders.
Although voting at the TCM is usually done via a show of hands from gowned members, both votes were conducted using a secret ballot.
Luis Lopez, the college’s resident head of second year, motioned to hold the vote by secret ballot, which was narrowly approved. “I think that nobody should feel guilty for voting their real opinions,” said Lopez, adding: “People are more confident when they know they are making a decision when they feel it’s right instead of being peer pressured. ”
Cas Legrand, the college’s non-resident head of second year, also supported the secret ballot. “Open voting would have simply resulted in a divided college, with certain individuals marked in addition to personal accusations of being deemed sexist [or] homophobic,” said Legrand.
Although many students present at the TCM spoke openly in favour of the first motion, it failed to reach the two-thirds majority required to pass.
Discussion of the second motion was more contentious and was held in-camera.
Sahal Malek, a second-year Trinity College student, opposed the motion. “I felt that the segregated TCM better served the interests of the Trinity community,” Malek said after the vote.
“I think the outcome of the secret vote is pretty shameful to our college,” O’Shaughnessy said.
“They know that our structures are exclusionary to people at our college and instead of voting in favour of these amendments, they were cowards and hid their cissexist views behind a secret ballot,” she added.
Madeline Hancock, a second-year student, saw both perspectives. “There are many who were against the amendment who did not get the right to express their opinions, which was not fair,” Hancock said, referring to the fact that the votes were held before everyone had a chance to speak.
Overall, Hancock expressed disappointment at the outcome. “If a member of the college could vote in good conscience to exclude and marginalize their peers, they should not be given the privilege to hide their opinions behind a secret ballot… I hoped that empathy and a desire to make all members of our college feel welcome would overcome ignorance, ties to tradition, or antipathy regarding our peers that feel excluded. I was proven wrong,” she said.
O’Shaughnessy said that she will continue to fight for more inclusive practices at the college. “I love this college enough to say that we need a wake-up call about our exclusionary policies,” O’Shaughnessy said.
O’Shaughnessy has put forth a non-binding motion at the next TCM recommending that student leaders refer to Trinity students as “Members of College.”