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What’s happening with the Q Centre?

By Julieanne Acosta, September 12 2022

On June 13, the Students’ Union (SU) of the University of Calgary published an article titled “Facts About the Q Centre Pandemic Closure” to clear up rumours regarding their relationship with the Q Centre — focusing on the Q Centre’s continued closure throughout the pandemic. 

“When most classes returned to in-person learning in March of 2022, the SU made the difficult decision not to re-open its physical student spaces or the SU office. Clubs’ spaces, Volunteer Services, and the Q Centre remained closed,” the article read. “There has been inaccurate information circulated recently about the decision to not re-open the Q Centre for the final weeks of the Winter 2022 semester.”

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Chi Dinh and Elijah Chung — former volunteers for the Q Centre — spoke out about their interactions with the SU about the Q Centre’s closure. 

“We never got a clear answer as to why we couldn’t reopen. Especially when they cited the provincial COVID-19 precaution policies which were in direct conflict with what we could observe on campus,” said Dinh. “A lot of other centers under university jurisdictions like the Women’s Resource Centre were able to reopen during the [end of the Winter semester].” 

Chung and Dinh are both members of a recently formed group titled Q Advocacy. 

“It’s pretty grassroots. It’s made up of former volunteers with the Q Centre and those who frequented the space,” said Chung. “When we went back to in-person […] we started wondering what was going on with [the Q Centre]. So naturally, questions started to arise.” 

In their article, the SU stated that they could not reopen the space as it was against provincial health restrictions and due to the fact that they lacked enough time to hire and train volunteers. 

“When these [provincial] policies were lifted, the SU made the decision — like many other university services — to prioritize safety and caution over a rapid, politically motivated re-opening and did not follow suit,” wrote the article. 

“We could observe [MacEwan Hall] during lunch time where everyone’s not masking because they’re eating. It [was] not socially distanced because it was extremely crowded at the time,” said Dinh in response. 

Moreover, Chung vocalized their attempts to help the reopening of the Q Centre throughout the pandemic were unsuccessful.

“[People] are so willing to volunteer [at the Q Centre],” said Chung. “The number of volunteers is not an issue. We just want our space back.”

This issue specifically was addressed by the SU article stating that two paid Q Centre coordinators were normally hired in a regular school year — throughout the previous year, only one was on the team  — and that the space is not sufficiently run by just volunteers.

“Our Q Centre coordinator and volunteers offered support to the LGBTQ2SIA+ community through peer support by appointment, information booths, social media content and engagement, and events during the physical closure of the centre,” wrote the article.

In a seperate statement to the Gauntlet, the SU notes that hiring two coordinators would still have not allowed the Q Centre to reopen its physical space. 

“The SU chose to hire one Q Centre coordinator to keep programs and services running. The claim that two coordinators would have allowed the centre to open fully is spurious,” read the statement. 

Chung also elaborated on the Q Centre being a medical resource to queer students and how many look to the Q Centre for help finding resources. 

“Being queer on campus and going through wellness services at the U of C, [the Q-Centre] is recommended to students who come out to their doctors and express difficulties with their mental and physical health as a hub to access queer resources all around Calgary,” said Chung. 

When asked if the SU viewed the Q Centre as a medical resource to queer students, the SU was firm in their response that they do not.

“The only campus medical resource or service for students is the SU Wellness Centre which, similarly to other services, closed during the pandemic but offered appointment only or online services,” read the statement. “The Q Centre does not provide medical services to students. It is intended to be a safe, comfortable, and inviting social space for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. The coordinators and volunteers may refer students to relevant resources or services, including medical, but the Q Centre does not provide medical services or advice of any kind. Provision of medical resources or services is not within the mandate of the Q Centre.”

Another issue that was raised by Chung and Dinh in a statement to the Gauntlet is that the decision to keep the Q Centre closed was made without the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. 

“When we look at the treatment of queer resources on campus and the unfortunate news of the United Conservative Party’s [UCP] decision regarding student loans and grants, we cannot help but be reminded that at any level of government, no decision should be made without the full participation and consultation of the people who will be affected by said decision. To quote our own SU President: “It is very disappointing that the UCP would make this move without consulting students first.” The same sentiment applies to the Q Centre and queer students on campus,” read the statement. 

Nonetheless, the SU acknowledged that they did not talk with the LGBTQ2SIA+ community as they had in previous circumstances. 

“The SU has always been committed to consulting with students on advocacy and programming. We do this frequently with the students who frequent the Q Centre, especially when it involves issues with the potential to impact the LGBTQ2SIA+ community,” read the article. “However, we hire staff to make operational decisions for the centre. Decisions that involve staffing, budgets, and safety are made by SU staff who are subject matter experts and have the experience to make informed and calculated choices.”

Towards the end of the school year, Chung and Dinh stated that the SU stopped communicating with them. The SU’s article ends off by explaining why they refuse to communicate further with some students on this matter. 

“SU staff and officials have continued to respond to student inquiries about the Q Centre,” wrote the article. “However, there has been an increasing amount of inappropriate, aggressive, and harassing behaviour directed at SU elected officials, staff, and volunteers from a small group of students upset about the closure of the Q Centre. The SU has had to respond to threats to publicize names and contact informations of SU officials and staff and belligerent in-person conduct at our information booths.

“Such behaviour, coupled with a lack of accountability regarding their call to harass SU staff and officials, resulted in the SU ceasing contact with the individuals calling for this harassment,” continued the article.

In response to these allegations, Queers on Campus — a club that looks to promote understanding and acceptance of queer people within the U of C community and the club that proposed the creation of the Q Centre — wrote their response on June 18 to the SU’s article on their Instagram. 

“In the Winter 2022 semester, advocates organized a petition and email-writing campaign, urging the SU to reopen the Q Centre. The SU has claimed that these advocacy efforts amount to harassment, and they refuse to give in to a ‘politically motivated reopening,’” the post reads. “We are concerned that legitimate, grassroots advocacy is being dismissed, and that the struggles of LGBTQ+ students are being ignored by our elected representatives.” 

Going forward, Q Advocacy has an active petition to organize a town hall with the SU. 

“[Q Advocacy] has an active petition to invoke Article V of the SU Constituition to call for a Town Hall during the last week of September (26th-30th),” read the statement. “This town hall would discuss the specific limitations and policies that prevented the Q Centre from re-opening and why the preparations for re-opening were suddenly neglected in Winter 2022. As well, to increase students’ ownership and agency over the space, during the Town Hall, we will recommend the creation of a student committee that will liaise between the SU officials, staff, and the 2SLGBTQIA+ student community regarding the operation of the Q Centre.” 

Article V in the SU Constitution reads that the president of the SU must call a general meeting of the SU, titled a town hall meeting, if the president is requested to do so in writing by 100 active members. 

Q Advocacy’s Winter 2022 petition had 181 supporters — 78.5 per cent of which were undergraduate students with the remaining 21.5 per cent differing from community members, graduate students, alumni, prospective students, previous and current faculty members and staff. 

Students passing by the Q Centre will see that it is still currently closed with a sign on the wall that reads that the Q Centre is preparing to reopen. The sign is accompanied with a QR code that leads to a Volunteer Services application. 

In their statement to the Gauntlet, the SU announced that the Q Centre will open with reduced hours today on September 12. 

“Prior to the pandemic, the Q Centre was not open over the summer months and does not open on the first day of classes,” read the statement. “Once student volunteers have been fully hired and trained, the Centre will open fully.” 

Q Advocacy’s information package for their current petition cites their concerns and overall, why they are choosing to petition again. 

“There was no acknowledgment of the 180+ petitioners’ concerns from the SLC. The mention of holding the elected officials of the SLC accountable by releasing their publicly available names and emails to their constituents was met with accusations of harassment.” read the statement. “The Q Centre is often advertised as a “student-led initiative” and a “volunteer-run service,” yet the decisions regarding the operation of the Centre — and by extension, the impact it has on the health and safety of 2SLGBTQIA+ students — are being made by uninformed outsiders who lack the unique lived experience of the community.”

To learn more about Q Advocacy and sign their petition, visit their LinkTree
To read the SU’s response article, visit their website.

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