Lack of Visible Support for LGBTQ+ Community a Problem for Queer Students at KPU
Culture / August 9, 2016
Some students still do not feel comfortable being out on campus
Kwantlen Polytechnic University “isn’t necessarily the safe space that people might think it is,” says Kari Michaels, a positive space campaign facilitator and volunteer for KPU Pride. In her time in these roles, she’s heard first hand accounts from KPU students of when “comments were made directly to them [which] basically created a hostile situation.”
Michaels explains that, partly due to experiences like these, some students do not feel comfortable with being open about their sexuality at KPU. When talking with these students, she says they point to “not having much of a visible presence” of an LGTBQ community at the school as a factor.
Current Queer Students Representative for the Kwantlen Student Association Ryot “R” Jey can also attest to the negative experiences had by members of his constituency.
“I have had students say that they’ve had an instructor that have been transphobic,” says Jey, who also laments the lack of visibility at KPU. “Students who are queer or transgender might not know that there is a Pride collective on campus [and] don’t really know where to go or who to talk to when they do have an issue.”
Although the lack of LGBTQ+ visibility at KPU has been difficult for some queer students, Pride Kwantlen has been able to achieve a number of notable successes, one of which is the creation of a social justice space on the Surrey campus, where Pride Kwantlen’s office is now located.
The Pride collective also advocated for what became The President’s Diversity and Equity Committee, established in the 2012-2013 school year. The committee examines LGBTQ+ issues at KPU as part of its mandate of inclusion for any minority or marginalized group that might access the university. In fulfillment of this, the PDEC was involved with the recent designation of gender-inclusive washrooms at KPU.
KPU President Alan Davis has also demonstrated support for the school’s LGTBQ+ constituency by marching with Pride Kwantlen in the Vancouver Pride Parade for the last two years.
Increasing Pride Kwantlen’s presence at the school is important to Jey, who is also a member of the collective. “In the fall I am hoping we can kick off things and be more visible,” he says.
Jey also says he is working with the Kwantlen Faculty Association’s LGTBQ2S+ Committee on a couple of on-campus events to be held early in 2017.
In 2015, that group held an event called Queer Voices at KPU, which, Michaels says, “was the first of its kind for faculty, administrators, students to come together and . . . talk about what it’s like being queer here.” Michaels believes it’s important to recognise “that the invisibility and the silencing [are] incredibly harmful to LGTBQ+ students, and we need to really work hard to get rid of that.”
“It would be really nice if the university actually took on LGTBQ+ institutional changes without having to be pushed for it,” Michaels says. “That’s the kind of institution that would reflect being inclusive.”