WORKING FOR POSITIVE SPACE

In News /

by Amy Sharaf

Those hoping for free juice and a discussion on homophobia and heterosexism will have to wait until the winter term.

Positive Space Sessions planned for Sept. 30 and Nov. 29 by Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Services (DHPS) are full, with more people interested in earning “Positive Space” stickers.

Launched in 2001 and again in 2003, Positive Space Ryerson is composed of staff, faculty and students, with the goal of creating welcoming, queer-friendly spaces across campus. Designated areas are marked with stickers proclaiming it a “Positive Space.”

André Goh, education and equity advisor with DHPS, puts on the sessions and said that while the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness, he wishes they weren’t necessary.

“Ideally it would be nice if we didn’t have to have positive space, because that would mean everybody gets it, we wouldn’t have to worry.”

Goh said his office has received support from staff and faculty including a letter from Ryerson President Sheldon Levy praising the university’s “exceptional reputation for promoting equity and celebrating diversity.”

Julia Lewis, associate director for Centre for Environmental Health, Safety and Security Management said she thinks the campaign is a “fabulous idea” and “integral to…building awareness in the community.”

The University of Toronto, McMaster University and the University of Waterloo all have similar initiatives. George Brown College, the University of Guelph and Seneca College are among the schools that have approached Ryerson about setting up programs.

A revamped ad campaign has had the former, hot pink posters replaced by ones depicting Ryerson’s clock tower.

Another new feature is that only session attendees can earn the stickers, a move Matt Radford, 22, a fourth-year journalism student and orientation co-ordinator for RyePRIDE, thinks will make earning the stickers a more significant accomplishment.

“The fact that the professors now can’t have it (the sticker) on their doors now without the training means they are really on the ball,” he said. “Now the gesture has meaning… now if a student sees it they are more aware of what it means.”

But increased interest in the sessions may not mean homophobia is on the decline. Goh said his office received 22 formal complaints and 259 “non formal” inquiries related to homophobia last year.

A study released by sociology professor George Bielmeier in March 2000 called “Attitudes Related to Homophobia and Heterosexism within the Ryerson Community: A Quantitative Study,” found that staff and students were “moderately” accepting of homosexuality while faculty were “probably accepting.”

Politics professor Neil Thomlinson teaches the politics of sexual diversity course and said that while Ryerson has a “veneer” of tolerance and acceptance, the sessions may fail to reach those who could benefit from them the most.

“The down side is that when (the session) is voluntary, the people who need to go the worst are not the people who are going to go,” he said. “The people who I would like to see go will never go to it.”

Though people can’t be forced to attend, Goh said he is happy with the reactions of those who do.

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