Student leaders share insight into inclusion on campus
With nearly 30,000 students at the University of Manitoba, its campus welcomes individuals from throughout the province, country and from across the globe.
Student leaders recently met with President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard to discuss diversity and inclusion. They also shared their thoughts with UM Today The Magazine on what those factors mean for them on campus.
Andrew Fenwick, the accessibility representative for the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU), helped start the Accessibility Centre, scheduled to launch this fall.
“I look at inclusion as education free from barriers,” said Fenwick.
“Something I’ve really worked on to make the campus more inclusive is accessibility through my various roles on student council. With the Accessibility Centre, it’s going to be a place where students living with disabilities can have their voices heard on different aspects that are barriers to their education,” said Fenwick. “As a collective, we’ll work towards fixing that.”
Brayden Harper, cultural events with the Aboriginal Association of Commerce Students, was recently named an Emerging Leader winner. He cited the importance of events, such as sharing circles at the Indigenous Student Centre, as ways of bringing people from a range of backgrounds together.
“I think on campus it’s about encompassing a lot of different values, different cultures. (At the university), you work with international students but also Winnipeggers. And you also have people who are from rural parts of Manitoba. At the end of the day, we’re coming to the same place and we’re here together,” said Harper.
Shayne Reitmeier, another recent Emerging Leader winner, is the co- founder of the LGBTTQI* Interest Group and co-leader and co-founder of the LGBTTQI* Mentorship Group.
“Inclusion on campus has transitioned to the forefront of our university’s priorities,” said Reitmeier.
“As a whole, we need to continue to address and remove barriers faced by many populations, both within our university and in the surrounding communities. Together, we can continue to educate our campus on our differences and come together to celebrate our diversity. For this to succeed we need to ensure diversity and inclusion are kept a key part of, not only our campus life, but also our curriculum,” said Reitmeier.
Amina Younas, director of public relations for the University of Manitoba Multicultural Student Association, said she’s seen the number of student group increase on campus, reflecting students’ varied backgrounds.
“Diversity and inclusion are key aspects especially because we live in Canada and we have so much diversity in Canada in general and that also comes naturally to campus,” said Younas. “So with many student groups – a lot of the students are international students and they feel an integral part of the campus community and I thing that’s a great thing,” said Younas.
Alana Robert is the founder and president of the Justice for Women student group and the women’s representative on UMSU. At a recent UMSU council meeting, a new bylaw was passed to ensure faculty councils participate in consent culture training. Robert worked with UMSU’s vice-president – advocacy on the initiative.
Robert spoke to UM Today on the role of helping students feel secure, as part of inclusion.
“I think it means fostering a safe and inclusive campus where everyone’s uniqueness is enhanced and embraced,” said Robert.
“Through Justice for Women and my role with women’s advocacy this has meant spreading consent culture on campus. We’ve done a lot of educational programming to proactively address the issue of sexual violence at Canadian universities and so we educate students, we engage them in discussions and the ultimate goal is to mitigate the risk of sexual violence and transforming rape culture into consent culture,” she said.
“And so to me that means a community where everyone is proud and excited to go to school. They feel comfortable in their classroom and they feel safe at all the activities and events that are part of being a university student.”