SSD Statement on the Martlet’s paraphrased tweets of SSD Constituency Representative Natalie Blecha during the UVSS Board Meeting on October 5th.

During the October 5th UVSS Board of Directors meeting, the SSD Constituency Representative Natalie Blecha’s comments were  inaccurately paraphrased in a Martlet tweet that lacked critical context.  A full transcription of the relevant sections of the meeting is provided below with commentary.

Transcript of relevant sections of UVSS Board of Directors Meeting:

Paarth Mittal

[1:27.17] Well, I see your points completely,  valid concerns that we should have some sources of information to back up our statements but this is already a widely understood phenomenon and it happens not just with on campus but around the world and this is not to say that only those groups have it hard and that others don’t, that’s not the purpose, but it’s just assuming that those are underprivileged economically  and racially and [1:28:00] systemically as we discussed in past workshops on anti-racism and such that those groups are more likely to be disadvantaged by the environmental impacts of climate change. It’s a widely studied topic and I don’t think that the experience of marginalized groups needs a research citation to prove it, but if anyone else wants to add to that that would be great.

Here, when Mittal refers to the phenomenon of environmental racism, they are referring to the global, scientific, and academic understanding and consensus through research studies that environmental racism exists.

[1:28.35] Natalie Blecha “x (speaker’s list) after” in chat.

Natalie Blecha

[1:41:55] As this motion stands, I’m also against it, for a couple of reasons. [1:42:00] One of the things I wanted to touch on was the value about – let me just pull it up here – environmental sustainability. Someone made the point earlier about the lack of citations, and I think [others explained] that by saying that it was a commonly understood phenomenon, specifically with environmental racism, and I disagree with that. It absolutely is not a widely understood phenomenon; in one of my third year Engineering classes about water resource sustainability, the concept of environmental racism was brought up for the first time, and the majority of the class had never heard of that before. So, to say that it’s a commonly understood phenomenon I think is an incredibly UVSS-bubble way of looking at the world and does not reflect what our students know. [1:43:00] So, to put something like that in the bylaws, or sorry not in our bylaws, in our values, without actually offering any concrete evidence, I’m not in favour of that. Secondly, the part about – in that same spot about recognizing that LGBTQ2+ population are disproportionately impacted by ecological destruction and the climate crisis; I’ve never even heard of that. I understand it as a class thing, but I haven’t certainly heard of an example specifically where queer people were, you know, worse off as an identifiable group than non-queer people, specifically when it comes to climate change beyond generic or general class trends, so, I’d like to see a citation for that also before I wanted to put it into our values as a recognized fact.

Here, when Blecha refers to the phenomenon, she is talking about the the understanding among students at UVic, not the global or academic understanding and consensus that environmental racism exists, and how those understandings do not line up in her personal experience as a UVic student.

The Martlet tweeted: “Blecha says that she doesn’t think queer people are worse off in the climate crisis, and doesn’t think there is a consensus around environmental racism — she wants a citation for both of these before the values go ahead.” and “SSD Rep Blecha says that she also doesn’t think there is a general understanding that environmental racism exists.”

These tweets are missing the critical context that when Blecha says “general understanding” she is clearly referring to the understanding among students, not the global general academic, scientific, or societal understanding as Mittal referenced when they spoke of the “widely understood phenomenon” of environmental racism. This tweet mischaracterizes Blecha’s example of encountering poor knowledge of environmental racism in her upper year courses and casts Blecha as disputing the veracity of environmental racism as a widespread phenomenon, rather than raising that many students at UVic are not well educated on this issue and therefore it ought to be linked to a citation within UVSS policy.

It is also missing the context that when Blecha said she hasn’t heard of an example of queer people being worse off as an identifiable group in the climate crisis, she clearly said other than as a class trend. Blecha did not make the statement attributed to her, she was  requesting more information and evidence before voting in favour of adding this connection to the UVSS values.

Several other queer directors spoke out in a very similar way to Blecha and were not selectively paraphrased in published tweets by the Martlet.

Advocacy representatives are required to provide reasoning for their decisions, much of which has to be made in the moment.  They should be able to expect their statements will be accurately reported. The SSD wants to publicly reassure our constituency group that the Marlet’s paraphrased tweets do not accurately reflect within context the statement made by SSD Constituency Representative Blecha during the October 5th UVSS BoD Meeting.

These inaccuracies were brought to the attention of the Martlet on several occasions and no clarification or correction has been issued as of October 31st, 2020.