Halls of Learning

Cooperation between students and administration is key to making campuses queer-friendly
By Sarah B. Hood
Now that diversity, equity and inclusion have become hot topics, institutions of all kinds are scrambling to put policies and programs in place to support LGBTQ+ communities. Some universities and colleges, especially in big cities, are ahead of the game; others are a little late. In both cases, good results tend to come when administrators work closely with the student body and support student initiatives.
Consider Spectrum, a queer-focused conference and networking event for students at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. It was founded in 2021 after student leader Jemin Patel noticed that the school was not planning any Pride activities. Through the Schulich Pride Alliance, a student support organization for 2SLGBTQIA+ students, a successful week-long series of events was inaugurated.
For this year’s Spectrum, Patel hopes to attract business schools from across Canada. Ideally, it will be held in person and timed to attract visitors to Toronto Pride. “We don’t want it to become just another Pride business conference where words like inclusion become buzzwords that are thrown around; we want to get into uncomfortable conversations,” says Patel. “We have been talking with the Schulich administration, and they are pushing us to make it even grander. There is a lot of support.”
Patel and Grace Jurisic, Spectrum’s VP of advocacy and charity, were partly inspired by the National Pride in Business Conference at the University of Calgary. It is also organized by a student group, the Business Pride Club at the Haskayne School of Business. “It’s not always that schools don’t want to take that initiative,” says Jurisic. “It wasn’t so much because they didn’t want to do it, but because there weren’t students coming forward.”
Patel further points out that university and college administrations can only do so much, because community events need to be designed from the bottom up rather than the top down. “It’s a 50:50 responsibility for the student community and the administration, but it’s very hard for students to step up because you’re at that stage of your life when you’re very vulnerable,” says Patel.
For Spectrum, “the outcome is to build a community so nobody feels they can’t side with the LGBT+ community,” says Jurisic. “We’ve been through it, we know the struggle, and we don’t want it to be as hard for others as it was for us.”
Spectrum is just one example of an event or organization at a Canadian university that aims to help LGBTQ+ students integrate into the college environment, connect with peers and feel comfortable pursuing their higher education as openly gay students. All over the country, universities are actively embracing a more assertive approach to inclusivity to ensure their LGBTQ+ demographic is acknowledged and supported within the university space. They are doing this through targeted support and resource centres, clubs, events, campaigns and specially designated safe spaces.
Below is a snapshot of the diverse mix of LGBTQ+ support currently available at some of Canada’s largest universities.


MUN’s Sexual and Gender Advocacy Resource Centre supports the university’s LGBTQ+ community.
The Resource Center for Marginalized Genders offers peer support and referrals, a Trans support group and an Asexual and Aromantic support group.
The Student Union has two representatives who advocate for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.


Queer McGill is a support service provided by queer students for queer students.
Student clubs include the Queer Grad Club (graduate students), OutLaw (Faculty of Law) and Queer Engineer (McGill Engineering).
The JBSCE Subcommittee on Queer People is committed to ensuring equity for queer people.
The Sexual Identity Centre provides specialized mental health care related to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
The University Library provides a Research Guide for LGBTQ+ Studies.
The Union for Gender Empowerment is an anti-racist trans feminist service.
The Shag Shop is an online safer sex & health boutique.


Ryerson has a Vice-President for Equity and Community Inclusion.
The Positive Space Faculty and Staff Network works to ensure the inclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals within the broader university community.
Positive Space creates on-campus programming for events like Pride and Trans Awareness Month.
The campus has all-gender washrooms and inclusive washroom signage.
The university is adjacent to Toronto’s most queer-positive neighbourhood.


The Positive Space campaign fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Pride UBC provides services relating to sexual and gender diversity.
The Sexual Assault Support Centre supports people of all genders.
The Aquatic Centre provides an allgender change room with private change and shower areas.
Amap of gender-inclusive washrooms is available.
Gears and Queers is a club for LGBTQ+ engineers and allies.
At radio station CiTR, the Gender Empowerment Collective aims to give voice to all.


The University’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion provides convenient access to information from names changes and gender-neutral washrooms to campus and community resources.
• The Students’ Union’s Q Centre is a safe space for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Queers on Campus encourages and promotes understanding and acceptance of queer people in the university community.
The Residence Rainbow Council supports the LGBTQ2S+ residence community.
Among other student-run supports are the Gender and Sexuality Alliance UCalgary and the Business Pride Club at the Haskayne School of Business.


Uof O has a formal policy and an Office for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment.
The Pride Centre of the Students’ Union of the University of Ottawa, provided through the Students’ Union, is committed to providing a welcoming, safe, unbiased and comfortable space for anyone who identifies as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and their allies.
The Women’s Resource Centre supports community members, including (women, trans folk, non-binary folk and men) in challenging gender oppression.


Uof T has a formal Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, a Centre for Women and Trans People and all-gender washrooms.
Its LGBTOUT, the oldest LGBTQ+ student organization in the country.
Other student groups include Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance, OUT@UTM at the Mississauga campus and the college-based Woodsworth Inclusive, Vic Pride, Rainbow Trinity and the Innis College Pride Alliance.
There is a student-run, non-profit Sexual Education Centre.


The Positive Space Alliance works to create an equitable and welcoming community at VIU for 2SLGBTQ+ people, connecting the student body with events like World AIDS Day, Transgender Awareness Week, International Non-Binary Day and, of course, Pride Month.
VIU’s Rainbow Stairs are a visible show of support for LGBTQ+ individuals on campus.
VIU has a Queer Straight Alliance.
Amap of gender-neutral washrooms on campus is available.


York has a gender-free language policy and a simple name change process.
The SexGen York committee advocates for sexual and gender diversity.
On-campus supports include the Glendon Women and Trans Centre (GWTC) and GLgbt*.
Many colleges have an LGBTQ+ officer, and some departments have dedicated LGBTQ+ representatives.
York holds a Pride celebration in June.
There is a gender-neutral washroom map.
The Students’ Union leads the university’s LGBTQ Network; other student-run initiatives include Glendon Queer Support, LGBT+ Schulich, OUTlaws at Osgoode Hall Law School and TBLGAY.