New LGBTQ2S+ centered program offers workshops on topics such as gender identity and pronouns to both students and employees of the University.
Greta Kooy, News Editor
Capilano University’s Student Affairs Office has introduced a new campus-wide initiative – the Positive Space Program. The program operates as an interactive workshop series available to both students and employees with a purpose of raising awareness and supporting CapU’s LGBTQ2S+ community.
The first of their kind on campus, the Positive Space workshops run for three hours and can be attended by anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. CapU’s first Positive Space workshop was held on Friday, Mar. 8, and was open exclusively to students. The first employee-attended workshop will be held on Thursday, Mar. 27.
Planning for the Positive Space Program began in October 2018. Mara Schaffler, student success facilitator for transitions, and Remy Marlatt, student success facilitator for student engagement, identified the need for the program and set to work. “We thought, ‘we have to have this on campus’. It doesn’t matter who starts it or who continues doing it, but we have to do it now,” said Schaffler. “It’s all about allyship,” Marlatt added. “It’s about learning about awareness and about the LGBTQ2S+ community.”
The workshops, led by Schaffler and Marlatt, cover topics such as gender pronouns, identity, vocabulary and discussions on how to be an ally, among others. Allyship, according to the Anti-Oppression Network, is “a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.” Although the workshops are discussion based, several key interactive components are included.
“We do myth busting, we look at [the LGBTQ2S+ ] acronym and break it down, we look at vocabulary, microaggressions, do case studies and [look] at scenarios that could happen at Cap, or might have happened at Cap, to make sure that people feel prepared,” said Marlatt.
At the end of the workshop, students and employees are asked if they’d like to take the pledge of being a “Positive Space” explained Marlatt. “If you decide to do that, then we give you a sticker of the Positive Space logo, and you can put it on your laptop or your office door, and it lets people know that you have some understanding and that you’re open to a conversation and are a safe place for people to go.”
“We think of ourselves as lifelong learners,” said Schaffler as she explained their joint experiences in participating and running similar workshops in the past. “By no means are we experts in the topic, but we’re very passionate. We like to learn from whoever’s in our audience, too,” she said.
The need for such a program was made even clearer following an incident that took place on Thursday, Mar. 14, when two CapU students defaced the Interactive Art Mural presented by the Queer Collective as part of the University’s Pride Month celebrations. “[That was] one of those situations, as unfortunate as it was that it happened, and I hate that that happened, it has opened the eyes of many [as to] what actually can happen on a campus like this, and we’re not blind to the fact that it does happen,” said Schaffler. Several students approached Schaffler and Marlatt after the incident took place. “You can’t say [this] is a safe space when something like [that] happens, that’s why we have to keep at these efforts, they’re continuous,” said Marlatt. “
Both Schaffler and Marlatt stress that the learning process is ongoing and ever evolving, and that situations like the one mentioned above can be prevented through education and fostering allyship. “[The workshops] will be an ongoing thing that we’re going to offer,” said Marlatt, “even outside the workshops, if someone wants to invite us to a class, or to a student group meeting, we will come.”
Students and employees are strongly encouraged to attend the workshops, although Schaffler and Marlatt can be reached outside of those times as well. As for the workshops, no topic is considered off the table. In fact, students are encouraged to ask that specific topics be covered prior to attending one. “We came about this as programming for students, but more than anything we know that if we continue to promote awareness to not only students but also employees, we can start building the cultural shift that we want to achieve,” said Schaffler. “But overall, we just want to create more welcoming, respectful and inclusive spaces on campus.”