16 September 2013

Pride Week Discussion Forums

This week marks the beginning of Pride Week, a series of events run by the SRC, SUPRA and the University of Sydney Union. This is the first time the USU has taken an interest in running Pride Week, and it is a great step in engaging queer identifying and questioning students in forums and events surrounding queer identity and queer issues.

As part of Pride Week, in my capacity as the Queer Portfolio Holder, I am conducting a series of forums to engage members in discussions about our programs, events, and leadership opportunities for queer identifying and questioning students. These are being conducted in conjunction with the Women’s Portfolio Holder, Eve Radunz.

The topics for consideration include, but are not limited to:

Affirmative Action Provisions for Queer Identifying and Questioning Students:
This is the most contentious part of the review, and will be the most heated topic of debate in the forums. The reason for this is because of the nature in which proponents for its implementation have framed Affirmative Action. The Queer Collective and non-members of the collective frame the discussion around autonomous selection in the case of our Board elections. The way this would work would be that the queer community would endorse candidates in the election, and then the highest polling Queer Identifying/Questioning individual, below the line, would be elected by the Affirmative Action Provision. There are obvious concerns that would arise because of this, namely, that many find the collective cliquey/overtly political and that this process does not occur for the positions for women on Board.

Queer Space
As it stands, the Queer Space in the Holme building is set to be redeveloped as part of the Holme Project, discussions surrounding this have considered what more could be done to improve this space, whether the space should be moved to a new location, and whether the autonomy of the space should be upheld. There will need to be more consideration on the first two matters, but it is the view of the Board that autonomy must remain intact. However, we all agree that this is an important question that should be brought up in the forums this week. A member concern: numerous members who use the Queer Space have requested 24-hour access. Those who use the space believe that having access to a “safe space” for students who experience Queerphobic abuse and violence is needed.

Queer Coordinator Events
Concern has been expressed into whether mandating events like Mardi Gras, Pride Week and Identity Programs would be fair and whether we would have a further reduction in applicants or perhaps an increase to the number of applicants due to the clear guidelines within the role. These events have a huge impact on our campus and the students who get involved in them, so mandating them is definitely warranted. However, a side effect is that mandating events impeaches on the autonomy of the roles. Part of this review will act to determine which events should be mandated as part of the Queer Coordinator events and which could just be more broadly supported by the USU.

Clique Mentality
One concern that has come out of almost all of the discussions thus far with queer identifying and questioning students has been the nature of events and programs offered by SHADES and by the Queer Coordinators, to be cliquey. It seems that the people left out of these events more often than not are queer wom*n identifying or questioning students. This review should address these concerns and implement new programs to support those who have been left out of our existing offerings.

There is obviously a lot more to be discussed, and members are invited to bring up issues and concerns that they believe need to be brought to the attention of the Board.

 So come along to one of these forums and have your say!

Forum 1 – Queer-identifying Wom*n Autonomous Session
 2pm Wednesday 18th – Women’s Room, Manning House Level 2

Forum 2 – Queer-identifying and Questioning Autonomous Session
3pm Wednesday 18th – Queer Space, Holme Building

Forum 3 – Open (non-Autonomous) Session
4pm – 6pm Wednesday 18th – Withdrawing Room, Holme Building

The first two forums will be working through the Preliminary Recommendations made thus far and discussing the concerns of the members directly involved/affected by this review.

The final forum will be a chance for queer identifying members to discuss their views openly among other members, and for allies to also discuss their thoughts on our current offerings.

 A progressive speaking list will be enforced and minutes will be taken at all three forums.

Once the forums have been held, a 2-week period of email submissions will be open to those members who were unable to attend the forums or who feel more comfortable preparing a written submission. These emails may be submitted anonymously.  

After this period of consultation, the report will be compiled and released for members to consider. A member’s forum will be organised before the end of semester for concerns to be expressed publicly, but any questions or comments on this report or the forums can be sent to Robby Magyar via r.magyar@usu.usyd.edu.au at any time. 

Yours sincerely, 

Robby Magyar
Queer Portfolio Holder

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