Douglas Students’ Union reduces size of its Pride Centre

news_Pride Centre sizes

Douglas Pride Community members react negatively to decision

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

On July 7, the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) along with the Students’ Union Building (SUB) committee approved a decision to reduce the size of the DSU Pride Centre. Since then, a wall has been erected, cutting the centre’s space down to half its original size. While the new space is intended for clubs and other student-related activity, members of Douglas’ Pride Community are now outraged at how the decision was handled.

“They didn’t ask us directly until after … they’d made the decision,” said Pride Community member Brandon Eyre.

“On July 18, Greg Teuling [member-at-large for the DSU] approached us over Facebook saying there was [going to be] a meeting without telling us what they wanted. On July 23 they held the meeting, [but] no one was able to attend. Later that day we were notified on Facebook by Nicole [Landingin-Dougall] what [they] wanted to tell us. They then told us … [that the decision had been finalized], and then the week after that they built the wall. It’s up now; you can actually be in both spaces.”

On the DSU Pride Centre Facebook page, a post was made on July 23 by Teuling stating:

“On Monday June 23 it was recommended by the Building and Services SUB Committee that due to increased demands on space in the SUB, room 206, commonly referred to as the pride room, be split in half to provide more room for all clubs and students in the SUB.”

Teuling’s post further stated that no specific club will be taking over the space, but rather clubs and students can book the room for their usage.

Eyre also stated that the decision was apparently based on a lack of members in the Pride Community, which is a factor normally applied to clubs.

“It’s kind of funny because … the Pride Community isn’t a club,” said Eyre. “We’re not required to have a membership.

“It used to be called the ‘Pride Collective,’ which makes more sense for what the Pride Community is. The idea of it was to have a safe space for LGBTQ+ students, as well as [providing] a group of people that those students could hang out with and rely on.

“We have a permanent space, a safe space for us, [but] from what I understand, one of the issues … was the DSU felt that there was a lack of membership in the Pride Community, and lack of use of the pride space … which is even funnier because our ‘membership’ fluctuates quite substantially. Just a year-and-a-half ago we actually had quite a large membership, and then in the summer now—every summer it goes down … it’ll be interesting to see what the numbers look like in the fall.

“We’re not a club, so we shouldn’t be based off of membership numbers, especially because even in the LGBTQ+ community there’s some people who don’t want to be actual members per se of the Pride Community because … they’re not wanting to be outted. Numbers don’t work well with it at all, so … to base the decision on that was ill-informed I would say. But I guess that’s what happens when you don’t talk to us.”

Eyre added that the Pride Community will be fighting against the decision, which the community intends to be vocal about.

“We have a lot of people that are mad … basically because they actually use this space frequently. We had one member who actually wasn’t attending Douglas, and this member proceeded to take classes again at Douglas so he could basically fight this.

“We have a petition online, [and we have] a number of members that will be marching in the pride parade highlighting … that the DSU did this. We will be talking with students as well, just trying to … have people understand [the situation]. Another [Pride Community] member mentioned that we will be trying to build a way for the DSU as well as the pride liaison to work with us in the future to ‘consensus build’ instead of a top-down approach.”

When asked about the changes to the Pride Cenre, Tim Rattel, the DSU’s executive director told the Other Press:

“In my reading of the petition, it is not asking for the return of the room, just rallying people to maintain the ‘safe space’ currently available. I think this is tremendously exciting: this kind of advocacy and membership outreach has been disappointingly absent in the last [five] years that I have been at the DSU.

“The DSU Pride Facebook group does not represent the actual membership of Pride on campus as most of the individuals are allies, friends, or former students. Pride at the New Westminster Campus has consistently had an annual active membership (as currently) of [six to seven] students who attended the meetings. On a daily basis no more than one or two people used the room: the same one or two people.”

In addition to the statement, Rattel stressed that many additional and even larger student groups and collectives on campus have been struggling to find their own unique spaces.