January 23, 2014

McMaster suspends Engineering redsuits student group

McMaster University has taken swift action after it came to light that a songbook connected to the redsuit student organization in the Faculty of Engineering contains sexist, violent and degrading material. 

“The material is highly repugnant,” said provost and vice-president, Academic David Wilkinson.  “The University has clear expectations that everyone on campus show respect for each other.  The engineering songbook that we have learned about is highly disturbing and is the exact opposite to everything for which the University stands.  McMaster is committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment for students, faculty and staff.  We and many engineering schools across the country have worked hard for a number of years to build an inclusive student culture.  It is clear in this instance, at least here at McMaster, that there is far more work to do.  We are committed to ensuring that everyone understand that McMaster will not tolerate such views or behavior. ”

Effective immediately, the redsuits will not be allowed to run or participate in any events on campus and the student group will not be permitted to participate in the organization of this year’s Welcome Week activities.  A full investigation using an investigator external to the University is being launched.  The existence of the songbook which was endorsed by a number of McMaster engineering students is sufficient reason for investigation and immediate restrictions.  Unsanctioned events run by the organization that potentially put students at risk will also be a key part of the review.   Wilkinson says the investigation will be broad-based and will help identify what additional sanctions will be issued.

Ishwar Puri is the dean of Engineering.  “It is upsetting in this day and age that a book was put together with materials that are entirely unacceptable.   The redsuits organization has a significant track record of positive work within the Faculty and the University, but that the same organization appears to condone the songs and supports unsanctioned and risky activities for students runs completely counter to the values the University works to instill.  Sadly, the small number of students within the organization and the redsuits they wear have now become symbols of intolerance and a sexist mindset that has no place at the University or in our society.”

The redsuits are an organized group of students within the Faculty of Engineering whose members are most recognizable for wearing red jumpsuits.  The group is part of the McMaster Engineering Society (MES).  Pending the outcome of the investigation, all non-academic MES events that involve alcohol are suspended.  Any currently planned events will also be subject to rigorous scrutiny by the University to ensure that they are conducted in a manner compliant with all policies and expectations.  The MES is financed and run independently from the University.

The Faculty will be working with the McMaster Engineering Society and other student groups and people within Engineering to ensure that they are aware of the issue, the University’s response and the principles under which everyone at the University is expected to conduct themselves.