Fredericton – The sudden disappearance of spaces that offered services on fostering healthy sexuality and stopping gender-based violence at the University of New Brunswick has students and professors questioning what is next. The Sexuality Centre, Voices Against Sexual Aggression and Safe Spaces all had programs that offered such services and resources to UNB students.
UNB has confirmed that the services that these organizations provided will not be cut, rather rejuvenated.
Dr. Rice Fuller, Senior Director of Health and Wellness and Director of Counselling Services at UNB, recently took over responsibility of the Sexuality Centre. “Dr. Fuller, with the support of others on campus, plan to make a vibrant and well-used centre for students who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum that will also provide programming for students, staff, and faculty about LGBTQ+ issues along the lines of Safe Spaces training. He plans to rejuvenate the Voices Against Sexual Aggression as well with the help of its members and others on our campuses (UNB & STU),” stated Nathasha Ashfield in an email to the NB Media Co-op.
Reid Lodge of TransAction NB hopes that “UNB will do a better job of reaching out to the local LGBTQ+ community while they are in the process of developing services, and that there will be LGBTQ+ -identified individuals in any staff positions that are established.”
“While I was attending UNB the level of support and resources available to LGBTQ+ students was, quite honestly, either non-existent or useless, and there has been little action from UNB administration to reach out to us to find out how they can do better,” said Lodge.
Kingsley Strudwick was the Safe Spaces Coordinator at UNB in 2009. “The Safe Spaces programming offered opportunities to openly explore sexuality, gender, and consent, and is one of the only tools we have to dismantle rape culture and create caring communities,” said Strudwick.
Since graduating from UNB in 2009, Strudwick has worked at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre in British Columbia offering programming to youth and adults on gender-based violence and consent. Strudwick also does trainings for organizations on how to offer inclusive and gender-affirming service for transgender gender variant people.
Amber Carter, incoming coordinator of the UNB/STU University Women’s Centre, is happy to hear that services will be available on campus but added, “while we are happy that they are planning to offer these resources, we as a university community need to continuously push in order for these services to be more accessible and well known. All these good intentions will mean little if we don’t actively pursue a safer campus.”
Travis Daley, the UNB Student Union President, said his union’s main concern is “to ensure the program’s long term sustainability and that the services provided are unique and valuable to a wide range of our students. We have consulted with the administrators of the program and will continue to do so moving forward in order to ensure the services reach their full potential.”
Lodge hopes that LGBTQ+ students will be able to take the lead in developing services and programming. “Services developed and maintained by people who do not have the experience of being a member of this community are not likely to be useful to us,” said Lodge.
The recent approval of UNB’s controversial Sexual Assault Policy by the Board of Governors was not publicized by the university administration. Many questions remain about how UNB’s administration will establish links between the sexual assault policy, its new position for Campus Sexual Assault Advocates, and the three rejuvenated student services programs.