Even though we live in one of the most progressive countries in the world, instances of discrimination and oppression still occur across Canada every single day.
Dalhousie is no exception.
The school has come a long way this decade when it comes to making students from marginalized communities feel welcome, but even the most progressive agenda can’t keep a whole school safe. Things happen to people – bad things – and they can often get swept under the rug. So, the Dalhousie Student Union, is starting a campaign to encourage students to share their negative experiences, either anonymously or with their name and contact information attached.
“It’s called ‘It Happens at Dal,’” said Masuma Khan, VP academic and external for the DSU.
“It sort of stemmed from the idea that it’s not always easy to recognize the things that are happening around us. Sometimes a lot of us, I think, feel that it’s easier thinking that everything’s okay, but this campaign is really a means of recognizing the battles that a lot of Dalhousie students face on the daily.”
The DSU’s plans upon collecting these stories are twofold. First, it wants to use this information to better direct its resource in ways that actually help students, and share some of the patterns and messaging around the stories.
“Recognizing gaps in services, support for survivors, things like that,” said Khan.
Second, students who choose to name themselves and provide contact information have the opportunity to play a larger role in shaping the DSU’s decisions.
The campaign won’t just exist on posters or online; Khan says the DSU is looking at other forms of media as well.
“We’re looking forward to a video exploring these topics more, and exploring the student experience on campus,” she said.
The campaign was originally rolled out online in mid-September, but the union had to delete it because the messaging wasn’t totally solidified, and because the DSU had to ensure it was able to provide the resources people would require before asking them to open up.
“The messaging around it that wasn’t formally put out was this is an inexhaustive list, and it was never meant to be an exhaustive list,” said Khan. In other words, the graphic on the post listed many types of discrimination, and certain groups were upset when discrimination against them wasn’t on the post as well.
“That messaging wasn’t there, and I think that was a big problem. Looking into how we go about these campaigns, it definitely brings conversation into how we can do better to consult with our communities, and make sure they feel they are represented in all of our campaigns,” Khan added.
“Talking about colonialism, talking about racism, anti-blackness, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, transphobia, homophobia on campus is not something that’s easy for people to do,” said Khan. “It’s important that before we roll it out and start the beginning of this process that we give students resources so that they can reach out and feel more supported when giving us their lived experience.”
For those students who do want to share their lived experience with the DSU, they can submit their stories to the ‘It Happens at Dal’ web link that will soon be online.