New Equality and Diversity Statement for GSS:
To support its mission of representing the diversity of the graduate student community, the Society has developed its first official position statement on Equality and Diversity. This was approved by the GSS Council in February 2020. The statement commits the GSS to:
“represent and champion minority and marginalized groups by ensuring their access to resources and serving them in the ways they need, ……future actions must be performed in an equitable, just, and accountable framework so we can fully serve all in their UBC graduate experience.”
Equity and Diversity
The 2019-2020 GSS student survey, consistent with previous years, shows the need to prioritize representation of students from diverse and marginalized backgrounds. As per the GSS Student survey, a comparison with last year shows little variation in the responses received, however, a higher percentage of those identifying themselves as ‘trans’ reported increased discrimination on campus due to transphobia.
Representing Students with Dependents:
Around 9% of all graduate students at UBC support dependents during their period of study. Research shows that graduate students with dependents find it more difficult to participate in on-campus activities, suffer more financial burden, and have a different set of challenges and lifestyle as compared to other students. The results from the survey and the personal stories collected through GSS focus groups conducted in April 2019 show that graduate students with dependents experience more financial hardship but they also enjoy better mental health and wellness, which could reflect the power of family support they enjoy. The GSS is working with graduate students with dependents to help address their issues, understand their requirements better and help advocate at the university to incorporate policies which are more flexible to individuals caring for others.
University of British Columbia has the 2nd largest international student community at a university in Canada. 30% of master’s students and 44% of doctoral students at UBC are international. With international students adding to the diversity of the university, the GSS also ensures that they feel welcomed to both the campus and Canada. The GSS provides various services to the international students, from starting the academic year with Orientation Sessions and events, to providing a network of resources, and advocacy services. The society also advocates for the students at provincial and federal level, supporting against tuition hikes, MSP fees, provision of equal services and providing an inclusive network support system.
Gender Justice and Community Engagement Event: Rainbow Social
The GSS survey shows that the LGBTQA+ students struggle to create a sense of community and belonging on campus, while making meaningful connections is found to be challenging. In response to this, the GSS aims to set up a Rainbow Social event, the first of its kind dedicated social event for LGBTQA+ graduate students. The intention is to use the event to establish an Affiliated Organisation for LGBTQA+ graduate students, which will allow more events like this to take place in future, and to provide a channel to lobby the University. The affiliated organization would also help create a network, showing their strong presence and the ability to advocate on the behalf of the community. The event was earlier planned for mid-March, which however got postponed due to the COVID19 pandemic. It will be tentatively be organized in fall 2020.