Mantlegate, Revisited.

15Jul09

Apparently Queen’s holds a grudge. At least, the buildings on campus do.

For those of you who are unaware, in late fall of 2008 the Queen’s Arts & Science Undergraduate Society President, Jacob Mantle, a then-3rd year Politics student, commented “I like your Taliban picture” on friend’s Facebook photo. The photo showed two girls wearing towels around their heads as well as large sunglasses. Immediately, there was an onslaught of anger and accusations of racism and Islamophobia. Assemblies were held so that students could voice their concerns, apologies were made, Journal coverage was extensive, and campus became covered with graffiti. Jacob Mantle was asked to resign as ASUS president and the impeachment process was begun, yet never brought forward to assembly.

Why do I care? Well, this year I was not only a member of ASUS and AMS Assemblies but sat on the Review Committee – the body responsible for ultimately withholding Jacob’s full honorarium. I’m also a classmate of Jake’s.

Unlike some of my classmates, however, I did not blindly stand behind Jake on the matter. However, I do believe that this escalated beyond what it should have. I do not think Jake is a racist person, or that the comment itself was racist. It was, perhaps, in bad taste, but I think we can all agree that everyone’s a little bit racist (to quote from Avenue Q) and that we all make similar comments. The difference is, of course, that most of us are not subject to such scrutiny.

My problem with the issue does not lie in the comment itself, but how Jake dealt with it. I know what it’s like to dislike apologizing – I myself rarely apologize. However, when an apology is due, it is given sincerely and swiftly. As a member of Review Committee, I was able to take a look behind the scenes of Mantle’s presidency and that is where I found his true faults. I was not one of the 2 people, besides Mantle, who voted to re-evaluate his honorarium in hopes of him getting more.

Regardless of Jake’s comment, there are many issues at hand. Firstly, that everyone was quick to judge Jake on this comment but let many other issues this year slide. See: AMS President Talia Radcliffe allowing AMS employee’s confidential T-4 slips to be left out in the open, AMS executive candidate Suhail Panjwani making a more obviously racist comment on Facebook and still being permitted to run for Exec, and current AMS executive’s leak of said comments – scapegoated to a first year volunteer who was later hired and subsequently fired as this year’s AMS Communications officer, to name a few. I believe that if we are going to point finger, that we must be equally vigilant in all cases. Queen’s Journal, I’m looking at you.

This rant may be coming many months too late, but it was spurred by this afternoon’s Twitter post by “Mac-Corry”, a Politics ’10 student who fancies himself Gossip Girl, masquerading as a building on Queen’s campus. (see: http://twitter.com/MacCorry/status/2655483996) While I am all for discussing and Tweeting pertinent issues, I think anonymous comments, much like those that plagued the Journal website during the height of “Mantlegate” are cowardly.  If you have an opinion, own up to it. Most other people aren’t afraid to.  It is a sad day when one passive-aggressively uses the Internet to air personal grievances.

Let’s all get over this, realize that people make mistakes, and learn from them. And while we’re at it, let’s all grow up and stop being anonymously cowardly.

P.S. “Mac-Corry”, here’s the publicity you were hoping for.

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3 Responses to “Mantlegate, Revisited.”

  1. Let’s do this ‘criticism sandwich’ (compliment, critique, compliment) style.

    This blog entry was a lot better than I had expected. Props.

    However, some information you left out of your post:

    Jacob Mantle’s comment came at the height of an anti-Islamophobia campaign. Not only did the undergraduate body he headed up and represent fail to endorse this campaign (requiring that affected students instead plead their case to assembly for it then to get voted on despite hundred or so other organizations, INCLUDING the Principal’s office & AMS endorsing it) but he instead invoked a likening in his Facebook post that was previously spoken out against in a Journal editorial a few months prior – when the Islamophobia first began. Furthermore, Jacob Mantle did not see the inherent problem with the comment until faced with this public scrutiny. I think the proletariat did its job well, for the most part. Otherwise who knows, he’d have run for AMS office 😐

    Talia Radcliffe’s slip (no pun intended) was not of her direct doing (unlike a Facebook wall post). Yes she should have been more diligent but ultimately she was not the one walking around with those boxes who left them “out in the open”.

    Suhail Panjwani’s comment came many MONTHS before he ran for AMS office. The timeline of his comment & Jacob Mantle’s comment do not match, dear Stephanie Fusco. That however does not excuse his comment. But throughout the year he did commit himself to anti-oppression iniatives and was considered an ally by many groups also doing anti-oppression work. Thus, he showed his commitment to challenging his previously held notions/perceived entitlements and correcting himself. Once the comment was dug up, Suhail Panjwani did not hesitate for even a second to apologize. He recognized his error and regretted not knowing then what he knows now. This was something that Jacob Mantle glaringly lacked.

    So, as we can see, your comparisons (for one) are off. I however commend you for attempting to give Jacob Mantle a hand. I think that qualifies as a compliment and with that, I’m done….for now.

    • 2 sobitteritssweet

      You make excellent points. However, I was not making a point about the wrongness of the others’ actions, merely the fact that they were not as extensively covered by the Journal. The fact that Jake’s comment came when it did did, indeed, make it more of an issue than it may have been otherwise.

      I applaud Suhail for apologizing as quickly as he did – I was there for the initial apology and found it very sincere. However, I also believe that Jake apologizing and learning his lesson, as I am sure he did, deserve praise as well.

      Thanks for the comments, though.

  2. 3 yourallstupid

    1. not signing a petition against islamaphobia does not mean that one is for islamaphobia
    1.b. petitions are useless
    1.c. if the principal’s office or the ams did not sign the petition would you have labeled them as islamaphobic? – i think so.

    2. Suhail’s comment was made after he was a dorm don and working for the ams food center… he had tonnes of sensitivity training prior to him making that racist comment.
    2.b. that incident and subsequent journal coverage proves that a double standard exists.
    2.c. good thing a racist did not get elected to office (i say racist because apparently making a comment on facebook and not apologizing immediately afterward is sufficient to label one as so.)
    2.d. Suhail had the benefit of Jake’s mistake… Who do you think took the whole issue more seriously? – Suhail knew to apologize, sign a petition and show sympathy otherwise face the onslaught that mantle did.

    4. proletariat? – grow up
    4.b. over 1500 ppl, including myself joined a facebook group in favour of jake staying as president… the majority (students of all backgrounds) were and still are on his side i.e. why he remained as president for the entire length of his term.


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