By Anika Syeda
As of last Thursday, McGill University offers a scholarship to recognize LGBTQ+ leadership. At Ryerson, there are no internal scholarships available specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
Several Ryerson students, such as first-year English student Matt-Blois, questioned the necessity for a similar scholarship at Ryerson.
“I just don’t see the need for this,” Blois said.
Timothy Thompson, chief operating officer at TD Asset Management, is the donator of McGill’s scholarship.
“Back in 1990, if there had been an award [like this] it might have allowed me to bring my whole self to school,” he says.
Graduating with an MBA from McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management and carving out a career in banking and finance, Thompson said he has little recollection of talks of diversity. “Over the course of my career of 25 years, the conversation about diversity and inclusion has definitely opened up,” he said.
Thompson will be donating an annual scholarship of $20,000 for each of the next five years to a MBA student within or in support of the LGBTQ+ community at Desautels who demonstrates both academic excellence and exemplary commitment and leadership within the LGBTQ+ community.
The City of Toronto Street Needs Assessment confirmed that 20 per cent of youth in the shelter system identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or queer. This is more than twice the rate of homelessness for all age groups.
According to McGill first-year physics and mathematics student Elias Hess Childs, such a scholarship is necessary if all students are to approach loans from similar financial standing.
“I think a lot of people confuse equity and equality,” said Childs. “The purpose of affirmative action has always to been to level the playing field, not give anyone a head start.”
The question of whether an LGBTQ+-specific scholarship ought to exist divided students into two opposing factions.
“Consider that some LGBTQ+ people are actually kicked out of their homes or no longer receive financial support once they come out as LGBT+ to their parents,” said first-year RTA student Aaron Brown.
However, students in opposition to the scholarship argue that there is adequate funding for somebody in need of it, regardless of whether they are straight or not. According to Blois, OSAP and other ways of obtaining funds for school negate the need for an LGBTQ+-oriented scholarship.
“If your grades are high enough you can apply for scholarships, gay or not,” Blois said.
Gay first-year computer science student David Jardine agrees with Blois, but added that LGBTQ+ students are not yet at a level playing field with heterosexual and cisgender students in terms of social status and acceptance.
“I assume this scholarship is an attempt to level the playing field by giving LGBTQ+ people a better chance at getting a post-secondary education,” he said. “While that is great, I think Canada’s anti-discrimination laws are sufficient enough to give us a good chance of getting employed.”
Promoting the message of embracing all sexualities takes precedence over compensating monetarily for the lack of societal acceptance, Jardine said, and universities should prioritize awareness campaigns.