Gender Diversity Audit Reveals Issues Around Campus

The audit focused on making CapU more inclusive for transgender, non-binary and two-spirited individuals.

Annalisse Crosswell, Associate News Editor

In an effort to make Capilano University more accessible to transgender, non-binary and two-spirited individuals, the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) and Queer Collective have brought in Transfocus to perform a Gender Diversity Audit, the results of which were announced March 5 with the CSU, Queer Collective, CapU staff and Transfocus in attendance. Transfocus in a consulting company focused on the inclusion of transgender individuals, using both their understandings of business and transgender lived experiences to do so. 

The $11,800 (plus GST) audit, received half of its funding from the University, a decision made by Jacqui Stewart, CapU’s vice-president finance and administration. The other half came from CSU budgets.  

Conversations regarding the audit began in the last academic year, but it wasn’t until July 3, 2018 that an agreement was signed between the University and Transfocus. The resulting report came to a total of 96 pages, outlining both things that CapU is doing right for their transgender community and a fair number of ways in which the University can improve. 

The audit looked at issues of accessibility throughout CapU including support systems and all of the IT services. Anna-Elaine Rempel, CSU president and vice-president sustainability and equity, and Lori Kosciuw, director of operations and advocacy, were involved in a lengthy process of getting the audit started. Of the issues outlined in the final audit, Queer Students Liaison, Michaela Volpe, noted a number of issues that will be focused on as priorities moving forward. 

“Deadnaming”, caused by an issue in the IT system that seems to indicate preferred names as middle names on attendance lists, is one that Volpe noted as the most significant of these priorities. Volpe explained deadnaming as calling an individual by their legal name when they have chosen to be referred to by another. This can be extremely detrimental to transgender individuals who no longer associate themselves with their legal names and can lead to repercussions in the classroom. 

“It’s honestly one of the biggest issues we hear at the Queer Collective…students are getting deadnamed everyday,” said Volpe. This can have a huge impact on students’ mental health, but Volpe also highlights that it dissuades them from attending classes. “So students are missing out on their education because of a really, really dumb easy fix in our IT system,” she said. The issue even required students to deadname themselves in the process of signing Volpe’s nomination package when running for re-election this year. 

Another issue that will be focused on moving forward is that of gender neutral bathrooms, which raises a similar issue. Though there are a number around campus already, most buildings only have one gender neutral bathroom, which can also take time from studies. There is also an issue of being able to feel safe on campus, which is why the open-concept showers in the Sportsplex will also be targets for change. 

“It’s a lot of a safety issue, it’s a lot of a morale issue… student’s mental health is just being beaten down every single day,” said Volpe, who is passionate about making the changes. She was re-elected to her position as Queer Students Liaison on March 21, so will be at the forefront of instating the necessary changes next year.  

Rempel and Joshua Millard, vice-president academic, are involved with helping communicate and advocate the issues with the University. Volpe commented that their role was the more balanced side of advocacy whereas she is a more passionately vocal advocate for the issue. The audit will provide a platform for these student politicians to do so and changes will likely be seen by the Fall semester of 2019. 

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