Over the last couple of years, the Q Centre, along with many other SU and campus spaces, have not operated to full capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, the SU was forced to make many difficult administrative and operational decisions about our spaces and services, such as ensuring an essential level of staff and appropriate financial resources were available. Because more than 90% of our annual revenue is generated through on-campus businesses that had to be closed, the SU’s finances were devastated over the last two years, and we had to lay off more than 80% of our staff.
Despite this, the Q Centre was identified as a high priority service, even if we were only able to run it at limited capacity. We recognize that the centre provides vital support for vulnerable LGBTQ2SIA+ students, and this is precisely why we made efforts to provide programming and supports (including peer support) throughout the pandemic. While some have not been happy with this solution, our Q Centre coordinator and volunteers worked hard under difficult circumstances to offer peer support by appointment, information booths, social media content and engagement, and events during the physical closure of the centre.
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. However, we’re happy to announce that the SU has hired Q Centre coordinators who will begin their roles shortly prior to the centre re-opening in the upcoming fall semester. We look forward to welcoming back students to these spaces.
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. The SU would like to take the opportunity to address that here.
Why was the Q Centre not re-opened when most students returned to class in March 2022?
The SU was not able to open several physical student spaces in March and April 2022 including the Q Centre, Clubs’ spaces, and the Volunteer Services office. Opening these spaces required ongoing compliance with health measures from both government and university policies and presented potential health concerns for staff and students. When these 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. We lacked the staffing and resources to ensure a safe re-opening at that time. Hiring and training volunteers was also challenging with the limited amount of time left in the term when students did return to campus. The SU did commit to offering some in-person events in the final weeks of the term while students were on campus. However, we remained unable to re-open the centre fully.
In light of the decision to keep these spaces closed, our Q Centre student coordinator and small team of volunteers continued to work hard to engage with students via social media. They made themselves available for support through appointments, information booths, and continued to run events when pandemic restrictions allowed. They also provided peer support appointments and other virtual resources upon request.
While we recognize that not everyone agrees with this solution, we did the best we could under challenging circumstances and sincerely appreciate the patience and compassion students have shown throughout this period of transition.
Why isn’t the Q Centre open for Spring and Summer 2022?
The Q Centre has never in its history been open during the spring and summer semesters. The space will be open again in fall 2022.
Why haven’t there been support services available for LGBTQ2SIA+ UCalgary students?
This is false information. While the physical Q Centre space has been closed, the Q Centre volunteers and SU staff have continued to provide support and important programming for students both virtually and in person.
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. Students were able to participate in a film screening, discussion night, information booths, and a skating event this past semester.
Why were decisions about the Q Centre space made without consulting the LGBTQ2SIA+ campus community?
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. 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.
Was the Q Centre Coordinator on the SU payroll during the Winter semester?
Yes. A part-time coordinator was hired to work 15 hours a week to coordinate the limited service the Q Centre could offer during the pandemic. During a “normal” year with the physical space opened, though, two coordinators would have been hired to effectively manage all the requirements of the centre.
Isn’t the Q Centre ‘self-sufficiently’ run by volunteers?
No. The day-to-day operations of the Q Centre in a “normal” year are managed by two paid Q Centre coordinators as well as volunteers. The centre is also supported by full-time SU staff who manage IT, risk management, budgeting and finance, human resources, health and safety, marketing, and maintenance of the facilities. Re-opening the centre is not as simple as unlocking the door.
Do volunteers only need a small amount of training to be able to support the Q Centre?
As with all of our volunteer programs, Q Centre volunteers are required to meet the SU’s high standard for volunteer management. This means that volunteers go through a rigorous training process and returning volunteers must complete this process annually.
Wasn’t the Q Centre created and fought for by students?
Queers on Campus proposed the creation of a centre for LGBTQ2SIA+ students over a decade ago and the idea was immediately and enthusiastically embraced by the SU. A queer SU staff member, who is still with the organization, was tasked with making the centre a reality and the SU opened the Q Centre less than a year later. To suggest that the SU fought against the creation of the Q Centre is completely false and erases all the hard work done by members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community to build it.
Why did the SU stop responding to certain student communications on this matter?
The SU is proud of our reputation of being responsive to student concerns. SU staff and officials have continued to respond to student inquiries about the Q Centre. However, there has been an increasing amount of inappropriate, aggressive, and harassing behavior 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 information of SU officials and staff and belligerent in-person conduct at our information booths – this is unprofessional and bullying behaviour.
While the SU is always open to respectful advocacy, SU officials, staff, and volunteers do not deserve to be exposed to communications that harass them whether by phone, email, or social media. It is hypocritical of individuals who claim to be concerned about mental health issues to engage in behaviours, such as making personal threats and bullying, that are profoundly traumatizing for people. 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.