Print Edition: May 20, 2015
The Student Union Society (SUS) is making space in the Student Union Building (SUB) for an Equalities Resource Centre (ERC) after being approached by a number of student groups and associations, individual students, and some faculty members.
The space for the centre on the third floor of the SUB was initially planned to be a study room. But when students from the UFV Pride Collective and Women’s Initiative presented an open letter arguing for the necessity of the ERC at the March 15 SUS general meeting, SUS began to seriously consider finding a space for it, a month before the SUB was set to open.
On April 13, SUS posted a press release on its website announcing that the ERC will indeed come to fruition. The release also explains that the space opens up opportunities for a potential partnership with UFV VP students Jody Gordon for additional programs or services.
SUS has also formed an Equalities Committee, consisting of seven representatives from the student groups that were most involved in getting the project off the ground. The committee was formed with the intention of ironing out what the ERC and its services to UFV students will look like.
SUS has also appointed equalities officer Sunny Kim to guide the committee. However, VP external Sukhi Brar stresses that the decision-making process will be in the hands of the committee, not SUS.
“Since it was something brought to us by students, we’re letting students figure out what to do with it,” says Brar.
The initial push for the centre was brought forward by UFV Pride coordinator Kyle Stamm, who says the idea first came from a friend attending Simon Fraser University. SFU has a similar centre adjacent to their Women’s Centre called Out on Campus, a volunteer-run lounge area with a resource library. After seeing their example, Stamm saw the need for it at UFV, as purportedly one of the only universities in Canada lacking a space that caters specifically to marginalized students.
“People don’t know what they’re missing,” Stamm explains, noting that UFV’s character as a diverse and accepting institution does not negate the need for the centre.
“For the sake of argument we’ll say, ‘Okay, fine — this is an accepting institution.’ But that doesn’t mean we’re free from those big overarching systemic oppressions … systemic sexism, homophobia, racism, those things. People are coming to campus and bringing those things with them.”
Specific services that will be offered at the centre have yet to be determined, but Stamm imagines it will boil down to two things: the physical space itself as a centre for community, and the function of disseminating information and providing resources.
“Between the actual physical resources and being able to build communities and have those social connections — that’s where I think the strength of it comes from, is being able to merge those two things together,” he says.
Ultimately, Stamm hopes the ERC would be the place where students could go in addition to other initiatives like the Peer Support Centre, which will be situated on the first floor of the SUB, and the Positive Space campaign headed by Jody Gordon, the goal of which is to offer training for staff and faculty.
“The Positive Space campaign is good but … just like the Peer Support Centre, it’s rather limited in its scope,” Stamm says. “The Peer Support Centre is this general idea of peer mentorship and leadership training with a referral to other students. The Positive Space training is this general idea of awareness around issues facing the queer community. But … they both fall short in the category of actually physically doing something.”
The idea, then, is to complete the triad with a physical space to refer students to.
However, funding the ERC may be an issue. Brar explains that SUS had not expected students to come forward with the proposal for an ERC, so no budget was set aside for it.
“For a study space, we wouldn’t have needed a whole lot of money — we’d just buy the furniture, people would use the space, and maybe there would be repairs,” Brar observes. “It might be a bit of a challenge, but we’re going to find a way.
“We’ve taken the funding for that would be for the study space furniture, and now we’re putting that towards the ERC, in terms of shelving and such,” she continues.
So while the ERC’s services and funding have yet to be set in stone, we do know that there will be a space for it.
The ERC is tentatively set to open this fall.