Before dissolving in 2016 due to a large number of its members graduating, the UFV Pride Collective served as a advocacy and social group for LGBT+ (referred to herein as queer) students. A central goal of the Collective was to establish an on-campus centre for queer and other marginalized students. By July 2016, that goal was more or less achieved with the creation of the Pride Centre and the Gender Equality Centre. I write this article as an active member of the Collective, both currently and before its dissolution.
The centres were opened by the Student Union Society (SUS) after months of discussions with the Pride Collective, and came after two previous attempts for spaces — a women’s centre and an equality resource centre for marginalized students — did not succeed. The two current spaces have remained open for students to use (Or request to use if the doors are found to be locked) since they opened, however coordinators for the spaces have not been present for the entirety of their existence.
Plans to revitalize both spaces are underway, but new coordinators for these spaces have yet to be re-hired. In a meeting held by SUS on Monday Sept.17th it was mentioned that there have been applications sent in for the position, and at the time of this writing on Oct. 13th the job postings have been removed from the Student Union’s website.
Attendees of the aforementioned meeting that was scheduled on Sept. 17th included SUS staff, Student Life staff, and various students and Pride Collective members, and was held to discuss what should be done with the Pride Centre space and what services should be offered there. Attendees of this meeting were encouraged to state their hopes and expectations. The full, unedited minutes for the meeting can be found on the UFV Pride Collective Facebook group. The main points of discussion were:
- Furnishings and decorations need to be updated in order to provide a welcoming space. I have observed that the flags that currently adorn the walls are in poor condition and should be replaced. Affirmative posters will also be a necessity, as are other flags which also represent the queer community. After some communication with the SUS president, Gurvir Gill, I have learned that decorations for the outside and inside of the Pride Centre are in talks.
- A variety of events, such as potlucks and crafting events, should be held in this space or in the Student Life lounge on the first floor when needed. Events of this nature have been held before in similarly-sized rooms without much complication. The SUS and Student Life staff were invited to attend hosted events as a way to show support for queer students.
- Educational resources should be added to what is already present in the centre. These resources need not be cost-intensive. Collections of articles and non-fiction paperbacks can be used as a suitable starting point.
- A greater online presence was requested. At the time of writing this the only online presence of queer resources for UFV students is the Pride Collective Facebook group. The first instinct for many students, as was the case for myself when I first became involved in the Pride Collective back in 2014, would be to look on the UFV or the SUS websites. Dedicated pages there would greatly assist in accessing resources.
- Expanding Pride Centre services to the Chilliwack campus was highly recommended.
- Information on events and services have been difficult to discover, as have been access to queer activism. The Pride coordinator, once one is hired, and the SUS event manager can act as direct contacts for such matters. SUS is in talks with various groups to expand the services provided. I myself have personally passed on contact information for an outside group to these individuals.
- Transgender inclusive services were stressed, including physical resources and greater access to gender neutral washrooms. A list of gender-neutral washrooms and where they currently exist on campus has been drafted by Student Life, and is available on the Pride Collective Facebook page. A total of 19 gender-neutral washrooms exist on campus in buildings A–H and S, with a small majority having only one such washroom.
- A safe method of distributing sexual health and menstruation products was discussed, with an acknowledgement of the difficulties in setting up such resources. This item will be investigated to ensure cost-effective options.
A handful of harder to quantify discussion points were also brought up. Whom should this space be reserved for? It was suggested that the room should be reserved for queer students and allies, and be “used to educate and empower students about queer issues” (page 2 of posted minutes). I have observed that the room has often been used as a quiet study space, with many of those present being queer.
What are the responsibilities of students to ensure that the atmosphere is welcoming and enthusiastic to new members, as oppose to cliques being formed? Concerns were raised about the existing queer community and the Pride Collective being difficult to enter for those who do not already know current members. What worked effectively during the previous iteration of the Pride Collective was having selected students act as ambassadors of sorts for new members, which can easily be done again in the current space. There is a duty on ordinary students as well as university and partner staff to ensure the Pride Centre is a safe environment for all who wish to use it.
I have great faith that the Pride Centre will be put to excellent use. I have spoken with students who have sought out the space just to see what is there, which would mean that word of the space is getting out. A gaming event that was met with a large turnout took place Oct. 12 and another has already been scheduled for Nov. 2, proving more so than before that a queer-friendly space on campus is an essential service.
I would encourage further communication between program staff and students to progress the set-up of the Pride Centre. During this planning phase a second meeting with staff and students may be appropriate in the coming months, perhaps after a pride coordinator is officially hired.