The Equity & Inclusion Office, located in room 325 at the University Centre, strives to build social sustainability at the university. That is, they provide resources and support to create a healthy and livable community for students, faculty, and staff alike. “With the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment for Students, Faculty, and Staff, the University commits itself to creating the best possible environment for working, learning, and living where respect, civility, diversity, opportunity, and inclusion are valued,” says Sara-Jane Finlay, the Associate Vice President of Equity & Inclusion, on their website. Those 5 values— respect, civility, diversity, opportunity, and inclusion— are the fundamental goals that motivate their work.
The Equity & inclusion Office builds social sustainability through three crucial projects:
Education and Communication:
They advocate for the 5 core values, mutual respect, and equity through presentations and workshops. They also provide education and training for those who would like to enhance their knowledge about “issues of discrimination, harassment, equity, diversity and human rights, and of two University policies; Employment Equity, and Discrimination and Harassment,” as stated on their website.
They have created programs, events, and campaigns to further provide the tools and skills necessary for the community to participate in social sustainability. Such activities include:
- Campaigning for accessible and all-gender washrooms
- Supporting the rights of breast-feeding mothers on campus through the Okanagan Baby-Friendly Initiative
- Encouraging everyone on campus to use inclusive language with their Inclusive Language Campaign
- Increasing the visibility and continuing the development of safe and respectful spaces for the queer community through their Positive Space Campaign
- Holding an annual Rule Out Racism week to address the need for further conversation about racism and anti-racism practices
Compliance and Data Collection:
The office uses a “research informed approach” for all of their activities, programs, campaigns, initiatives, and communications.
“Through these key measures and the many other activities of this office, we aim to support and enhance the understanding and commitment to equity and mutual respect, central tenets for a thriving academic life at UBC,” says the AVP of Equity and Inclusion.
Another program that focuses on making UBCO a safe and respectful space can be found at Nicola Townhome 120, a cozy little space by the Nicola residence. The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) is the place to go if students have been affected by sexualized violence. Students can also call 250-807-9640 or email email@example.com for support and assistance.
Their website states that, if a student has experienced sexualized violence, the SVPRO can:
- Help you find a safe place to stay
- Arrange academic concessions, e.g. extensions
- Coordinate workplace accommodation, e.g. arranging leave
- Explain your reporting options
- Go with you to the hospital, police or court
Their office will assist with reporting the incident (if desired) and with accessing health care. Students do not need to report to the police, Investigations Office, or elsewhere to access SVPRO. The program can bypass institutional waiting times and limit middle-people interaction. They can also help students facing financial hardships. Likewise, if a student does not feel safe, SVPRO can find a secure place on campus, or at a hotel or shelter. Their website has a plethora of resources tailored to specific students as well as groups such as the Love and Learning group (Healthy Relationships), Healthy Masculinities group and the Safety and Resiliency group.
SVPRO provides workshops to educate those on campus about UBC’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, healthy relationships, responding to sexualized violence disclosures, and identifying and intervening to prevent sexualized violence.
This Fall, SVPRO is running the We Believe You campaign that looks to debunk common myths people blame themselves for when they experience sexualized violence. Colorful posters and decals are posted all around campus.
It is important to note that if a student has experienced sexual violence, “it is common to blame ourselves for what happened, or tell ourselves to get over it and forget it never happened. But it is not your fault. We need to tell survivors and ourselves, it is not our fault first,” says Shilo Cyr, the director of the SVPRO.
These UBCO services provide and advocate for safe and inclusive spaces. This allows for the further growth of community and enables supportive conversations among all who are active on campus, both students, faculty and staff alike.