Queer McGill wants to see changes made to the voluntary Safe Space Seminar held by the McGill Equity Subcommittee on Queer People.
“We want it to reflect what students actually experience, and to make it more congruent with the types of workshops that Queer McGill puts on, like Rez Project,” said Ren Haskett, a student representative on the Subcommittee and member of Queer McGill.
“We have a decent idea of what the student population would like to hear and how they are representing themselves. The program didn’t always reflect that.”
Safe Space aims to educate teaching staff about a variety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual, and queer (LGBTIQ) issues, and to help create a more receptive environment for LGBTIQ individuals at McGill.
Although the Subcommittee offers online resources on homophobia, Queer McGill supports the idea of making Safe Space a mandatory seminar. They believed the voluntary nature meant that most of its attendants were already “queer-positive.”
Queer McGill administrator Aubrey Trask also worried that attempts made by the Subcommittee to cater to the older population of professors – such as the way issues are approached and words used in pamphlets – compromises the integrity of the program.
“For the amount of money and time put into a program that isn’t correct, it would’ve done more damage than anything,” said Trask.
While Queer McGill has given the Subcommittee funding for the Safe Space program, the Subcommittee has refused to make any revisions recommended by Queer McGill – such as clarifying vocabulary and eliminating inaccurate and outdated definitions.
Across North America, institutions like the University of Manitoba and Central Washington University have established safe space programs, and encourage staff to participate in the workshops.
In 2006, Chicago-Kent College of Law created a safe space program, which works to address personal and professional issues pertaining to queer identity. Students are able to discuss subjects ranging from anxieties related to coming out to the impact federal laws have on non-heterosexual individuals – specifically on matters of family law.
“McGill could be a machine school that just gives students a degree, or it could create a better place. That is the choice they have to make,” said Trask.
The next Safe Space seminar will be held on November 18.