CSU remains committed to equity, diversity and inclusion over the next five years
Alisha Samnani // Managing Editor, News Editor
Recent high-profile incidents of racism and discrimination, along with Black Lives Matter protests across the US and Canada, have placed increased attention on equity, diversity and inclusion work at many post-secondary institutions. The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) has released their 2020 to 2025 Strategic Plan, a continuation of the fierce student advocacy they’ve become known for.
“This strategic plan is guiding our priorities, but it’s not the only work that we’re going to do over the next 5 years,” explained CSU President Emily Bridge. “We had an awareness of the previous plan, but we really didn’t use it at all or build off of it; we deliberately left it aside and tried to start from scratch with envisioning what our mission was, what we want to achieve and how we’re going to do that.”
The seven page plan was a “year-long collaborative process between stakeholders, the board of directors, and the strategic planning committee,” something Bridge said was important to ensure the CSU’s ability to support all members of the student union.
“We really were careful with the wording that we chose,” said Bridge. “We recognized that often these sorts of documents—strategic plans—can be very colonial and they can be used to reinforce the status quo. We talked a lot about the wording because I really believe that words have power…if we’re going to use [certain] words, we need to understand what they mean and what our commitments are.”
The newly-released strategic plan is built upon five guiding principles:
- Divesting from colonial power, and championing Indigenization
- Demonstrating leadership, value, and impact
- Centering justice, equity, and sustainability
- Delivering results with excellence
- Connecting with students to drive our work
Championing Indigenization—which is the process of collaborating and consulting Indigenous folx to ensure organizations, spaces, programs, and procedures account for Indigenous values and perspectives—is something Bridge admits the CSU needs to improve upon. “We recognize as an organization that we don’t have a ton of Indigenous staff, we don’t have a ton of Indigenous folx on our board of directors, and so we know we need to do a lot of work there. We’re always looking at how we do things and who’s not here at the table and why. That’s an ongoing process.”
The new plan’s three key pillars are reducing all barriers that limit access to education, letting students feel empowered to participate and understand the role of the CSU, and facilitating the creation of safe and inclusive student centre spaces and infrastructure.
When asked to elaborate on the first pillar, Bridge recalled that while most of the conversation centered around financial barriers, the team realized that “…the colonial infrastructure of a university and the systems and the procedures and the policies that are in place in universities can be very oppressive to marginalized groups of students of various identities.”
“It’s interesting, we were discussing…[our] anti-racism and anti-hate work months ago, back in January. This year was the first year in a number of years that we held an event and really gave some awareness and programming around black history month—that’s a huge problem,” said Bridge. “It’s fortunate for us that this aligns with what’s happening globally and that we can use the momentum happening in the world to really drive this work home at the university and benefit our students.”
In addition to assuring that students at all four CapU locations feel served and empowered by the work of the CSU, Bridge says that one of the most important objectives is to spread awareness of the CSU’s work to the entire student population.
“A universal struggle for student unions and student associations across Canada is having the student population understand what a student union is. We do a lot for students that I think folx either don’t know about or that fades into the background of your university experience,” said Bridge. “You don’t think about the fact that you have a health and dental plan provided by the student union, you don’t think about the fact that a lot of the achievements and policies in place to protect students… is from student organizing. It doesn’t really surface in your day to day university experience.”
“I would really love students to read [the plan]. If they have an idea for how they want to see one of these objectives achieved, something that they would like to be a priority that isn’t, I would encourage them to just reach out to us. What does this objective or this priority mean to you, how can this plan support you in your post-secondary experience?”
To provide feedback or suggestions regarding the 2020-25 Strategic Plan, students are encouraged to email CSU President Emily Bridge at email@example.com.