Positive spaces introduced on campus
Quietly but surely, a program designed to reduce the impact of homophobia and heterosexism is being introduced across campus.
Called Positive Space, the program is a joint initiative of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU), the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally (LGBTA) Centre, Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Services and the Provost’s Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. And according to Nicholas Fraser, it is “an amazing move on the part of the University that symbolizes to me that the University is taking a proactive approach” to issues associated with sexual orientation for both students and staff.
The former LGBTA Centre director added the initiative sends the message “that this campus isn’t homophobic”.
The Positive Space program encourages individuals and groups to sign up and display a special logo identifying their space as one where people need not fear disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Joining involves attending an information meeting and signing a contract. That contract asks participants to be non-judgmental, to learn about LGBT-related issues, to challenge language and behaviour “that is contrary to providing a safe environment” and to educate others when the opportunity arises.
Knowing they are in a positive space encourages people to be “forthright and honest”, said Fraser, whether they are staff, students or even potential employees on campus for a job interview.
Carole Pond, co-ordinator of discrimination and harassment prevention and co-chair of the Provost’s committee, said prior to launching the program, the student union was alone in attempting to address LGBT issues. Positive Space “brings these issues into the University itself so they are not just about students”, and will indicate “an understanding and respect for sexual orientation”.
Members of the Provost’s committee – faculty, student organizations, Student and Enrolment Services Division, University labour organizations, Human Resources Division, the Residence Office and Campus Safety – will be the first to implement the program in their own spaces, said Fraser, with a more widespread effort expected in the fall.
For information about Positive Space, contact the director of the USSU LGBTA Centre, or Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Services.