An executive in the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) has apologized to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) for mocking an apology issued earlier this month by SSMU Vice-President Internal Brian Farnan.
On Feb. 9, Vice-President Communications Luis Pombo sent a satirical apology through the EUS listserv, which mimicked the format and nature of Farnan’s Jan. 27 apology for racial insensitivity.
Pombo’s joke triggered an EUS equity complaint. In response, the EUS executive team, in consultation with the EUS equity commissioner, imposed a number of sanctions on Pombo. In addition to Pombo’s apology to SSMU, these include equity sensitivity training and the revocation of EUS listserv and publications responsibilities, which will now fall under the president’s portfolio.
EUS President Carlos Marin said the problem stemmed from Pombo conveying personal opinions from his position as an executive.
“[He] as an individual may disagree with SSMU’s Equity Policy […] but [he] cannot, as a representative of the EUS, make a joke out of that; that’s completely unacceptable,” Marin said. “[He] cannot send an official e-mail from an official communication channel of the EUS making fun of the concept of equity.”
Pombo accepted full responsibility, noting that his mock apology was part of his initiation into the Plumbers’ Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), an Engineering student group.
“As part of my PPO initiation I was given a set of tasks,” Pombo told SSMU Council on Thursday. “One of these tasks, however, was to send out a fake apology to all engineering students. In what can only be described as a lazy attempt at comedy, I decided to satirize Brian Farnan’s apology.”
Without the listserv and work on publications, Pombo will continue to manage the EUS web developing team and the yearbook, among other tasks.
Some students, such as Alex Grant, U2 Engineering, said the response was appropriate.
“I think [the sanctions] are probably a good middle between taking him out totally and leaving him how he is,” Grant said. “There’s absolutely no way that he could just be let off the hook for that.”
Other students such as Morgan Grobin, U3 Engineering and a chief of the PPO, said the response to Pombo’s mock apology was too harsh.
“I think anyone who is mildly intelligent realizes that [the e-mail is] mocking the SSMU equity process itself, and not mocking equity or Brian Farnan personally,” Grobin said. “What Luis did was a mistake [… but] I don’t think he should be stripped of all of his powers [….] Maybe something that would have been more productive would have been an open forum with Engineering students to talk about equity.”
Grobin also criticized the process by which the sanctions were decided.
“The [executive team] is only eight people; they’re elected representatives, but they only represent the interests of the EUS executive, and there wasn’t consultation from year representatives who represent all the students in the Engineering body,” Grobin said. “That’s why Council exists—so that no decision gets pushed through that’s inappropriate or unfair.”
However, Marin argued that the executives abided by EUS Equity Policy.
“That’s how our process of the Equity Policy works […] and the fact that [the complaint was about] someone from our team made it more appropriate,” he said.
Marin also said that despite negative reaction surrounding the incident, increased discussion about equity among students was a positive outcome.
“There’s this stereotype that in Engineering we don’t care about these things,” he said. “As leaders of the [Engineering students’] community, [we] have to make sure that this discussion happens. And I think it’s happening.”