Editorial: Making Our Campus Safe and Accessible for All
Non-Binary, Trans Students and Sexual Assault Survivors Deserve to Feel Respected
When we picture our ideal campus, we envision a space that fosters openness, inclusion, and diversity.
We imagine a place of coexistence, where all students feel like they are respected and their needs are met.
While Concordia claims to be a space inclusive to all, there are still measures that need to be taken by the university to ensure this is actually the case. Every time the school seems to takes a step forward, something happens and they take two steps back.
Take the recent events surrounding a sexual misconduct allegation in our creative writing program. News broke that a professor in question was exonerated in September 2018 through a private investigation conducted by a third party.
But no notice was ever given to the complainants. They were notified by the CBC, not the school.
The Concordia Association for Students in English released a statement after the news condemning the school’s handling of the case and the fact complainants were not notified.
While the school’s administration provided few details about the situation, citing a provincial law put in place to protect the privacy of the accused, we still echo concerns about the handling of sexual harassment allegations here.
Students are less likely to report if they feel that their case will not be heard or acted upon by the school, which is the impression that exonerations such as this one will inevitably cause.
The nature of these investigations stipulates that they must be conducted privately and so students can’t learn about the findings of investigations against their teachers, but we uphold an approach of believing survivors who come forward. We hope that more will come from other allegations against professors.
There is also the issue of a lack of spaces for gender nonconforming and transgender students on our campuses.
While Concordia does have a few non-binary bathrooms open to students of all gender identities, a common problem students have found is that these bathrooms can be difficult to find.
The Centre for Gender Advocacy and the Concordia Student Union have a list of bathrooms they can provide to students, but the list appears to have not been updated since 2012, and it is difficult to verify its accuracy.
It appears that some gender neutral bathrooms on campus are kept locked, requiring students to report to security or the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities and out themselves as non-binary or trans to get a key. When attempting to find gender neutral bathrooms on campus, we got conflicting responses about their accessibility, which is in itself a big problem.
Student spaces like The Hive or Reggies have gender neutral bathrooms, but these bathrooms are an exception on campus, not the norm.
The fact that transgender and non-binary students have difficulty accessing bathrooms that they feel safe or comfortable using contributes to a climate of exclusion for these students. How can you feel valued and respected when even just finding a place to use the bathroom becomes so complicated?
In terms of services and safe spaces for gender nonconforming students, while these students do have some at their disposal, through the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Queer Concordia, or CJLO’s Women’s+ Collective, we feel that the administration could play more of a part in creating and maintaining these safe spaces around campus.
We call on the university to step up their game to make our campus a more welcoming and supportive environment for transgender and gender nonconforming students, and those who have survived sexual assault or sexual abuse. Education is a right for all, regardless of gender identity and expression, and marginalized groups deserve to feel supported, welcome, and like their voices are heard.
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