Events will run until March 29 and put focus on the University’s queer community.
Greta Kooy, News Editor
In previous years, Capilano University’s annual pride celebrations spanned the course of just five days. This year, the Capilano Students’ Union’s (CSU) Queer Collective, spearheaded by Queer Students Liaison Michaela Volpe, is hosting events all month long.
In March 2018, Volpe, then a first-year student, lead a nine-person organizing committee as part of the Pride Week festivities. Since then, her role in the planning and execution of these events has grown significantly. “Last year was a lot more of sitting and listening and taking in information, and [events were] also a lot more directed at the University,” she said. “So [this year] we did more things for the queer community specifically.”
Pride Month events kicked off at CapU on Tuesday, March 12 with a workshop presented by the Queer Collective called “Let Your Freak Flag Fly”. On the following Thursday, March 14, the collective presented the Interactive Art Mural, described by the collective as a “community mural… focused on pride, self-love, and community.” Unfortunately, two members of the CapU community were not supportive of the Collective’s endeavours.
“It was defaced with homophobic comments,” said Volpe. She described two students who had etched hateful comments into a space meant for acceptance and love, calling the incident “stressful”. “It was especially intense because it was in a very public area, right outside the Members Center,” she said. “They really believe that they’re protected on campus to be just openly hateful and [perform] a blatant act of homophobia.” The two individuals later returned to make more homophobic remarks toward Volpe and several other collective members directly. “They were very proud of what they had done.”
The University is aware of the incident and is working closely with the CSU to hold the two students accountable. The CSU has since released a formal statement on the matter. “We were originally going to have the door to the [Queer] Collective room open during all of our events so that folks could wander around, come in and check it out,” said Volpe. “And then, because of that, we decided that it wasn’t safe. So, our door’s now closed and locked.”
Volpe has seen pushback on campus in relation to Queer Collective matters before – just last year, when a referendum vote for a new Social Justice Fee was put forward, she encountered, in direct opposition of the CSU’s “Vote Yes” campaign, a very vocal “Vote No” campaign. “We’re still a marginalized community… and there are some people who believe that we shouldn’t be subsidizing minorities,” she said. “They just voted ‘no’ for everything. They were pretty active too.” The vote for the proposed Social Justice Fee failed to pass that year.
Incidents like these have only reaffirmed Volpe’s passion to advocate for queer students on campus.
“It’s really important for people, University officials especially, and students, to see why this is important and understand that we have a presence on campus, and we make up a large percentage of the campus,” she said. “We matter and need a space where we feel safe and comfortable. The reality is that queer people, especially in the university system, face a lot of barriers that I think we need to acknowledge more.”
On Tuesday, March 19, with perfect timing, came the Collective’s next event, “Queerness: A History”, which focused on the queer liberation movement. Thursday’s events included a “Let’s Get Consensual” workshop, part of the CSU’s sexual violence and misconduct awareness initiative. Also to look out for in the next week are the “Sex Positivity with Self-Love Portrait” and “Art for All” events on March 26 and 28 respectively. To conclude the month’s activities, a movie night will be held on Friday, March 29 in the CSU Maple Lounge where there are promises of pizza and snacks, and screenings of Rent and Milk.
“We put all of these events on because we care about them, and because they foster this real sense of community within the Collective,” said Volpe. “I’m honestly really proud to live in a community and to attend a school where we’re so actively supported, but there’s always going to be work to be done.”