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By: Sophie Hunt
The new year has brought changes for certain MSU services.
The Women and Gender Equity Network, is an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, intersectional feminist organization. It provides a safe space for women, trans individuals and survivors of sexual violence to meet. The group has moved to a new location in MUSC 204, which is located directly beside the McMaster Student Union offices.
“It’s supposed to be a space that caters to communities that are marginalized,” said Hayley Regis, WGEN’s part-time manager. “So having a space and the ability to decorate it and make it as we see fit to best help the community makes more sense.”
Giuliana Guarna, VP (Administration) of the MSU, highlighted some of the factors that contributed to the shift in spaces. “Last year there was a space audit completed, and we evaluated to see how we’re using space.”
The MSU considered placing the group in the MUSC basement, but the idea was discarded. “Being downstairs next to all the medical services, they thought that for what their service was going after, especially supporting victims of sexual violence and assault, they wanted to demedicalize it,” Guarna said. “By being in this location they are very close to all of the other peer support services.”
When asked about current and future plans for WGEN, Regis emphasised the new space itself. “We’re finishing updating the space to make it feel like a cool space that’s nice to be in and is a good place for discussion.”
Visibility and a welcoming atmosphere are at the forefront of WGEN’s recent move. “I want the space to be something that’s permanent, comfortable and lived in,” Regis said, “like a living room, a place where you’re at ease.”
There was some speculation about how high traffic at their new location will affect those who might be uncomfortable coming to the space with private matters. “We haven’t had any adverse reactions,” Regis said. “People are still acclimatizing, but I would say we’ve seen a much higher amount of people.”
The Student Walk Home Attendant Team, has also moved locations, now residing in MUSC 226. The service aims to promote on and off campus safety, and has volunteers that walk or bus with students during evening hours.
“SWHAT is a unique case because they operate after hours,” Guarna said. “The Student Success Centre was generous enough to donate the space to us after hours, which is exactly what SWHAT needs it for.”
“This office space is a lot bigger,” said Serena Arora, the current SWHAT part-time manager.
“In the past volunteers who wanted to study or meet at a quieter space would share the back offices. Now we have rooms that allow you to do your own thing.”
When asked about the remote location in comparison to other services in the Student Centre, Arora said this is a good change for those who are “embarrassed” to use SWHAT, so the change will add another layer of confidentiality for service users.
Despite the change in location, Arora stresses the importance of remaining visible on campus. “We’re making sure that students know where we are, that we’re still here, and we’re still excited to walk you home.”
Both WGEN and SWHAT are aiming for more visibility on campus, and encourage the McMaster community to become more involved in their networks.
Photo Credit: Jon White/Photo Editor