At their July board meeting on Monday, the Student Union Society (SUS) unanimously voted to designate two rooms in the Student Union Building (SUB) as a pride centre and a women’s centre.
SUS president Sukhi Brar noted that most universities across Canada already have similar spaces, and the fact that UFV doesn’t is strange.
“Our campus doesn’t have a pride centre or a women’s centre, and if you’ve been on other campuses, you might notice that it’s rather unusual,” she said. “The services exist on just about any campus that I’ve been to.”
The board voted to allocate the food services office space on the second floor of the SUB as the pride centre, while the room directly beside it, which is currently used as space for clubs and associations, will become the women’s centre.
Brar noted that reallocating these spaces is possible, since the demand for them is not as high as SUS had originally anticipated.
“What we found last year was that approximately half of the clubs and associations that got office space didn’t use it and we had to re-designate it,” she said. “From all the information we have right now, one room would still serve that function for the amount of demand we have for clubs and associations, but I can’t really justify keeping both spaces when we have a need for a women’s centre.”
While exactly how these spaces will operate is still unclear, Brar hopes to hold a referendum asking students to approve a fee for the centres so that SUS can hire staff to help create and operate the spaces.
“What I’m wanting to see during my term, is to have this go to referendum and have a small fee attached to the space so that we can have a hiring committee struck to be able to hire someone to run the space,” she said.
Both UFV and SUS have had their own histories with similar spaces on campus. Kyle Stamm, a member of UFV’s Pride Collective, explained at the meeting that a women’s centre was open on campus at one point, but was closed when there was not enough funding to continue maintaining the space.
Stamm was also one of the original motivators behind the Equalities Resource Centre (ERC), a space that SUS had designated to support marginalized students on campus, but never came into fruition.
Brar commented that the process of implementing the pride and women’s centres needs to be transparent to avoid a situation similar to the ERC from happening again.
“I could come here with a really rigid [plan] of what this looks like, how it’ll function, but having learned from past things, that’s maybe not the best idea,” she said. “It would be developed with mass collaboration and mass consultation with students.”
The SUS board also unanimously voted to make the centres an essential student service so that any changes to the space would need to be approved by the student body.
“A lot of students are concerned that we’ll dedicate ourselves to this for a bit or part of a term, and it’ll fall to the wayside,” Brar said. “It’s really important that we designate the space as an essential student service. What that means, as per bylaws, is that if the space were to change, it would require going to our membership to declare a referendum to alter the space designation.”
Stamm shared that, despite the outcome of the ERC, he trusts that Brar will follow through with her plans to open the centres.
“I have absolute confidence in Sukhi’s ability to pull this off,” he said. “I think her heart is in the right place [and] her head’s in the right place. She’s going to be able to do this and I’m really excited to see what happens.”
SUS plans to host meetings throughout the fall semester for students to share what they would like the spaces to look like, followed by a referendum to include a fee for the spaces early next year.