By Melanie Woods, October 25 2016 —
After turmoil following the booking of an anti-LGBTQ group at a MacHall table and the Students’ Union’s response, an advisory group may be coming to the SU Q Centre.
Dozens of University of Calgary students, staff and other members and allies of the LGBTQ community gathered at the Q Centre on Oct. 24 to discuss strategies going forward in light of the incident.
SU vice-president student life Patrick Ma and SU director of student services Jason Morgan led the discussion. Volunteer services coordinator Andrew Barry and Q Centre co-coordinator Mélanie Trudeau were also in attendance.
The meeting was largely in response to an incident on Oct. 17, when members of the Christian Truth Activists (CTA) — an anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ evangelical group — booked a table outside of the Q Centre in MacHall. Students from the Queers on Campus club protested the display and a large crowd of students gathered to engage with the CTA throughout the day.
Despite several students filing complaints with the SU and campus security, the SU could not remove the group from the table due to their booking contract. While the CTA display was set up, the SU and Q Centre issued a statement on Facebook discussing alternate routes to the centre through a back staircase.
At the Oct. 24 meeting, Morgan admitted the table was booked in error and that Whatcott and the CTA had been denied a table before, but a flag was not put on their file.
“Our system, I think, works really well. This was a huge error on our part, but it’s the only one I can think of in the 10 years I’ve been here,” he said.
The meeting focused on strategies to improve LGBTQ representation and advocacy on campus. Strategies discussed included revising table booking contracts, campus-wide communication through the UC Emergency app and the creation of an advisory group for the Q Centre.
“I would really like to pursue the idea of an advisory group for the Q Centre that is made up of not just elected students or students we hire,” Morgan said during the discussion. “A group that gets together to advise the Q Centre [and SU] on how to better serve the community. That can include stakeholders from across campus — students, staff, faculty.”
After the meeting, Ma agreed that an advisory group is worth pursuing.
“The advisory group, I think that’s something really promising we can really look forward towards and make sure that we’re creating a more unified response if we ever have to deal with something like this again,” Ma said.
Queers on Campus co-chairs Kira Daly and Zac Wierzbicki were optimistic about the proposed group.
“I think it was very important to have a very visible, viable presence from everyone involved [with the CTA incident] and unfortunately while I think that while the groups involved were working very hard, they didn’t necessarily project a very visible presence of that work,” Wierzbicki said. “If it is done well, this sort of advisory board will really serve to prevent that from happening again.”
Ma and Morgan both said further meetings and discussions will be organized with the Q Centre and Queers on Campus.