A recent controversy over the content of the SSMU handbook has resulted in a three week delay in its realease due to the firing of the two original editors.
Genevieve Friesen and Sara Kipp-Ferguson, the original editors for the handbook, were let go in August when the finished product was deemed unacceptable by Students’ Society executives, said Vice-President University Affairs Finn Upham. “There was material in the handbook, both pictorial and written, that was offensive,” Upham said. “Particularly in the assumptions about the reader. Not everyone at McGill is a rez-inhabiting U0 Anglophone who is comfortable with over-the-top sexuality.”
However, Friesen and Kipp-Ferguson were required only to make relatively minor changes at first. According to Friesen, a former Tribune design editor, after receiving a print at the end of July that was reviewed by executives, Upham asked that a section of the handbook be changed. The section was a four page pull-out of colouring pages that featured different sexual positions.
Despite that one section, it seemed that the handbook was acceptable. Friesen fixed the four pages, one of the more lewd sections of the sexually-toned handbook, before she left later that evening to visit family in Manitoba. Kipp-Ferguson was also away during this time, and it was not until the two editors returned a week later that they learned of SSMU’s decision to hire a new team of editors.
Upham explained that there were complications with the handbook and that Friesen and Kipp-Ferguson were no longer editors. According to VP Clubs and Services Floh Herra Vega, they have been replaced by Carly Boyce and Jenna Wakami. However, Friesen claimed that she was not given an opportunity to fix the problems.
“They didn’t give us a chance and they didn’t give us the credit. We didn’t find out until two days after the entire process had been restarted,” she said.
Upham acknowledged that there were mistakes made that could have been avoided.
“I think the mistakes were failures of institutional memory, bad habits from years of the executives being too hands-off and no one properly informing the editors and incoming executives of what was expected in terms of content and contact,” she said.
However, she remains confident that this decision was in the best interests of McGill students.
“The handbook in its present state is more inclusive, contains more accurate information, and is designed to inform, not to shock,” Upham said.
Friesen disagreed with Upham’s contention about shocking content.
“We’re in Montreal, one of the most open cities in the world, and we can’t talk about sex in our book?”
Barring unforeseen delays, the revised handbook will be available today.