Posted on December 2, 2008

Carleton Students Petition to Impeach Union President Over Cystic Fibrosis Gaffe

Chris Boutet, National Post, November 28, 2008

Embarrassed Carleton students are getting closer to ousting the members of their student council responsible for a cystic fibrosis gaffe that garnered national attention.

Frustrated by their student council’s recent decision to drop a cystic fibrosis charity as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser because the disease “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men,” Carleton students are attempting to clear their school’s name with a petition to impeach their union president.

The motion to change the frosh week charity passed the Carleton University Students’ Association council almost unanimously earlier this week, but a national outcry—including a Facebook group to reinstate the charity that has gathered thousands of members—that followed caused the student association to backtrack Wednesday.

CUSA president Brittany Smyth said she was “very sorry for the confusion” and stated that an emergency meeting of the association’s council is planned for next Monday evening and she’ll be personally trying to rescind a decision to pull CUSA support for the annual “Shinerama” fundraiser.

But despite CUSA’s efforts to backtrack on the controversial decision, a student movement has emerged to impeach Ms. Smyth and councillor Donnie Northrup, the science councillor who wrote the motion.

Spearheaded by Carleton’s public affairs councillor Kailey Gervais and student Rebecca Gill, the petition drive to remove Ms. Smyth from office has already collected more than 1,000 of the required 1,250 student signatures—5% of the total student population—in two days of circulation. A separate petition calling for Mr. Northrup’s ouster has collected approximately 40 of the 90 signatures required from students in the science faculty.

“Students have mobilized so quickly in two days,” said Ms. Gervais. “I think we’re showing that despite the council’s actions, students at Carleton are responsible and we don’t deserve the reputation we’ve gotten.”

Ultimately, Ms. Gill added, the most important outcome is that Shinearama is officially reinstated, and she anticipates that this will happen at Monday night’s meeting. “But this is also about re-establishing Carleton’s reputation,” she continued. “We want to clear our names, make sure people know that our voices were not represented.”

Once the petition drive has reached its goal, the signatures will be sent to Carleton’s office of student affairs where they will be validated as coming from students. From there, the petitions will be brought to the attention of student council, which may then choose to put forward a motion to remove Ms. Smyth and Mr. Northrup from office.

[Editor’s Note: The original stories in the cystic fibrosis outrage at Carleton can be read here.]