Social justice space launched in Surrey

By Kristi Alexandra
[culture editor]

Student clubs have found themselves situated in a new home on the Kwantlen Surrey Campus.

An official open house took place on Thursday, Sept. 15 in the campus’ Birch building, where an employee lounge space has been rededicated for student club use.

The space partially came as a result of a staged overnight sit-in by Pride Kwantlen – Kwantlen’s group for queer and trans students and their allies — in March, which saw several students and supporters camping out in the then-employee lounge. The sit-in was just one event in the Positive Space Campaign, which aimed to see all of Kwantlen campuses become a safe, inclusive environment for all students – including queer and trans students.

Students and advocates of the club space attend an inclusivity training seminar in their new space at Kwantlen's Surrey campus on Sept. 23. (Matt Law / The Runner)

Several club advocates — including members of the Aboriginal club, Japan club, Grey Matters philosophy club, WOOW (Women Organizing Opportunities for Women) club, and of course, Pride Kwantlen — came to show their support and appreciation for the new dedicated space on Sept. 15.

Jody Gordon, Associate Vice President, Students, also came to oversee the open house. She said the securing of a positive club space on campus was a long anticipated goal.

“In a conversation that [David Atkinson] and I had, we were talking about the lack of space for students – especially a lack of space to gather and connect and engage,” she said. “That came through in our national student survey very clearly. Students said they need more social space and they need more space to gather in groups; in particular, clubs.”

According to Gordon, the employee lounge was underutilized and so rededicating the space to students seemed a natural solution for the lack of club space.

Terri Van Steinburg, president of the Kwantlen Faculty Association, said losing the employee lounge came as a surprise.

“I think there might have been a misconception that people didn’t use that employee lounge. That space was very well utilized,” she said. “We found out [about the club space] when our members came into our employee office and said ‘where did our employee lounge go?’”

While students and club activists are excited about their new space, Van Steinburg is wondering if the KFA employee lounge will be replaced.

“It’s not an issue about the student space versus our space, but it’s that there was no alternative space provided,” she said.

Van Steinburg maintains that she is happy that students have acquired a space, but losing the employee lounge also means losing a place to eat, clean and relax.

“The biggest issue for members, I would say, is that we lost the sink and the fridge. Those are the two key elements of it all – the space is one thing but access to the sink and fridge … the only other sink up here is the sink in the washroom, and no one wants to wash their dishes in the bathroom sink,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gordon and the university have resolved that a positive space on Surrey campus is just step-one.

“We’re still in dialogue about positive space because we still have Langley, Richmond and Cloverdale,” she said. “From our perspective, we’re excited that we’re finally here and this is definitely a beginning, not an ending, for us. Now we’re looking towards the other campuses and asking ‘how do we support club space?’”



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