Over the past several months, the Student Union, led by LGBTQ+ councillor Jackie Toner, has created multiple position statements on identity that address some of the challenges students may encounter regarding their gender identity.
The three statements that were presented to council recently are a Gender Neutral Bathrooms Position Statement, a Chosen Pronoun and Honorifics Position Statement, and a Chosen Name Position Statement.
The statements cover issues such as students being able to have access to gender neutral bathrooms on-campus, students wishing by their chosen first name rather than what might be their legal name and for students to have their chosen pronouns and honorifics respected by the UNB community.
Toner said she saw that progress was happening at UNB in terms of making the school suitable to students of any gender identity, but it was going slower than she had hoped. This was a motivating factor behind the creation of the statements.
“I saw that there was a gap in what we were allowing students to do. I’d had testimonies from students on how they were exhausted by having to communicate with their profs that weren’t respecting them for their preferred pronouns,” said Toner.
An increase in the amount of gender neutral bathrooms over the last few years has been a step toward Toner’s goal; for example, buildings like the Currie Centre now have three gender neutral bathrooms and four gendered bathrooms.
However, buildings such as Head Hall and MacLaggen Hall are lacking in this regard. In response, the Student Union hopes to encourage UNB to change through their various advocacy efforts.
According to the UNBSU’s Gender Neutral Bathrooms Position Statement,“The UNB Student Union advocates that the university actively work to identify and have a minimum of one gender neutral bathroom for every three sets of gendered bathrooms per building on campus.”
Toner identified Head Hall as one of the buildings that needs improvement, due to the distance between bathrooms.
“When you have buildings like Head Hall—which is massive and holds thousands of students—and you only have a handful of gender neutral bathrooms around the building, it makes it really hard if you have a student in Computer Science that’s in a class on E-level, and the closest bathroom that they can go to is at the main entrance by Dineen,” said Toner.
The Student Union worked on their statements with the Human Rights and Positive Environment Office (HRPO), which provided feedback on early drafts of the statements.
The HRPO’s primary services include championing UNB’s Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities and collaborating to create and deliver awareness and education programs.
Despite her role in providing feedback, UNB human rights officer Sula Levesque wants to ensure that credit is going to the right place.
“This is their work, and I—along with a group of people—made some comments on early drafts, but this is really their effort,” said Levesque.
A driving purpose for developing these position statements is that the Student Union wants UNB to adopt their own identity position statements, and to pledge their intentions on how they will make the university a more comfortable space for students of all gender identities.