While there are women’s centres in over 20 schools across Canada, McMaster is one of a handful of campuses that does not have a comparable centre. So for the past few months the MSU has been investigating if there was a need for a women’s and trans* centre (WTC) on campus.
Research from the WTC Ad-Hoc Committee showed that a vast majority of students, 78 per cent of those surveyed, said that they would use a WTC to seek counseling or in order to provide information to support a friend. 237 people responded to the online survey.
At the March 24 SRA meeting, a motion passed that formally recognized and acknowledged the need for a women’s and trans* centre on campus.
The motion also recognized the MSU’s commitment to ending violence against women and trans* individuals on campus.
However, the motions were not passed without much discussion amongst the representatives.
Some assembly members especially took issue with an original motion, which called for a commitment to ending violence. There was argument over whether the particular motion was purely symbolic and didn’t call for enough tangible measures.
But several members strongly argued that voting against that type of motion was more indicative of the MSU’s lack of support and divisive stance on ending violence against women.
Elise Milani, Chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee and SRA Humanities, stated that, “When we commit to it we’re saying we’re continuing to work. If we vote this down…it inherently says that we [the MSU] don’t want to end violence and against women and trans* individuals.”
Similarly, Simon Granat, SRA Social Sciences expressed his dismay in those opposed to the motion.
“It’s astounding that people are saying, ‘yeah I don’t think I’m going to vote for this’. Yeah it’s big. Yeah it’s lofty. But we’re committing to ending violence. To me this really shouldn’t be a discussion.”
Assembly members were presented with up to date information and research that the Ad-Hoc Committee had compiled in order to inform their decisions and stance on the necessity for a WTC on campus.
The research collected showed that there was a gap in services which SHEC, the Wellness Centre and QSCC was unable to fulfill in terms of providing specific sexual assault counseling or a discussion forum for gender issues.
Violetta Nikolskaya, a WTC Committee member, explained how, “we have to recognize it’s imperative that we have something on campus for students. Something that is convenient, readily accessible and central to students.”
Milani described how the committee’s next steps will be to look more closely at funding, location, partnerships with organizations such as SACHA and examine the liability of providing counseling and services.
“We can’t put all the responsibility on the WTC. It’s a huge thing we need to try and tackle. And this is just one part,” said Milani.
“Doing awareness campaigns and providing training [about violence against women and trans* individuals] is another big part of the overall issue.”