OUT@UTM’s executive director, Zara Rizwan, has resigned following claims of an unsafe working environment and an intense workload, among other claims.
In Rizwan’s resignation letter posted on the OUT@UTM Facebook group last Tuesday and also sent to The Medium by email, Rizwan cited a “variety of reasons” such as “the ways [she has] been treated by others, an overwhelming […] workload, and repeated instances of invalidation” as the basis for her resignation.
“I no longer feel safe in this environment,” said Rizwan in the letter. “I understand fully that no space can be entirely safe but I hope that OUT@UTM will become a safer environment in the future.”
In an interview with The Medium, Rizwan mentioned issues such as shadism and discrimination directed at her, specifically when Rizwan would make suggestions or contributions to other executives.
“If another exec who was white-passing was to say the exact same thing, suddenly everyone was on board,” said Rizwan about her contributions to the group. “This happened numerous times and I spoke with that exec and they were aware of it as well but there was this very strange shadism that was going on because I am the darkest skinned member.”
According to Rizwan, a “non-South Asian” executive member told her she was not allowed to host a yoga session as part of club activities due to fears of cultural appropriation. Rizwan, however, claimed yoga “is [part of her] own culture”.
Rizwan declined to disclose the names of specific executive members involved in any of her claims.
In a statement issued by OUT@UTM to The Medium on Saturday, the executive team addressed the claims from Rizwan’s resignation letter.
“We want to acknowledge that our executive director has left due to multiple issues; there are a multitude of factors not limited to shadism, workloads, accessibility, and so on,” reads the statement. “These have been largely exacerbated by a lack of communication within our team.”
According to the statement, OUT@UTM has faced many discrimination issues within the group.
“OUT@UTM has within its membership and executive team presently and historically a number of issues including but not limited to shadism, classism, transmisogyny, fatphobia, disableism, racism, sexism, cissexism and all forms of oppression,” it says. “This is something we have been working on since the start of our year, and past executives have been trying to address these issues.”
According both OUT@UTM and Rizwan, both parties have agreed to meet and discuss the issues raised by Rizwan.