Creating a diverse environment helps us to open doors, and make spaces more welcoming for students. Students acknowledge this whether or not it’s a conscious awareness. From a systemic standpoint UPEI seems to be at a stalemate. While I am sure some staff, faculty, and administration working towards making progress on campus, unfortunately it’s not something students often see. On the community level there are students working towards celebrating diversity on campus, and perhaps that is something that fellow students are more aware of.
Students, with backing from the Student Union, have been working on increasing gender neutral washrooms on campus for the past few years. In 2014 it seemed like a win, and it was perhaps the first step towards inclusion, when UPEI decided, “the university will be converting most of the 12 single-stall washrooms on campus” to gender neutral washrooms. Unfortunately most of those washrooms are inaccessible after 4pm or if you do not live in residence. Many students may not know this, but the students who feel more comfortable in gender neutral washrooms are keenly aware.
The Mawi’Omi Centre is building a stronger presence on campus with events such as Treat Tuesday which invites students from all over campus to the Centre as well as the Red Dress Project and other events that educate students on the history and experiences of Indigenous peoples.
The Best Buddies Program is bringing students with disabilities together, and launching campaigns to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of using the term “retarded”.
The Student Diversity Office, which is run by students hosts a variety of events and often partners with other groups. Some of the events include educating students about “What Else Is Sex” during Sex Week, and Rants and Raves which allows students and faculty a platform for sharing experiences, and concerns.
Soup for the Soul, Panther Pantry, and the Chaplaincy Centre feed students a free meal periodically, which ensures that students at least get one filling, nutritious meal.
There are faculty, and staff devoted to helping ensure these events are successful and their support is greatly appreciated. Many of these initiatives are “supported” by the administration on campus. Is this just lip service? Is support without action enough?