Survey shows LGBTQ+ students want more safe spaces

OUSA publishes its largest ever LGBTQ+ student experience survey

There aren’t enough safe spaces on Ontario campuses, according to a survey published earlier this month by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA).

The LGBTQ+ Student Experience Survey focused on the satisfaction, safety and inclusion of LGBTQ+ post-secondary students on six Ontario universities — Queen’s, McMaster, Wilfrid Laurier, Waterloo and Brock. 

The survey was open to all students who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. The survey opened last November and recorded 311 responses overall.

The survey found that the strongest opinion held by respondents related to the statement “I wish the university employed more full-time staff to run LGBTQ+ groups, events, and spaces”. OUSA reported that 47 per cent of respondents agree and 37 per cent strongly agree.

Of the 311 respondents, the sample included a mix of sexual orientations and gender identifications. Over 50 per cent of respondents identified as homosexual, while smaller percentages of respondents identified as genderqueer, trans and gender fluid.

The survey found that a sizeable portion of respondents felt uncomfortable with health care professionals on campus. 34 per cent of students who had used mental health services reported that the counselors and therapists lacked the knowledge necessary to provide good care.

However, the report also found that a "large majority of respondents indicated that they felt comfortable and included on campus."

 

Avery Everhart, MA ’16, a board member of the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre — a gender empowerment advocacy group at Queen’s — said the results were surprising, as Everhart’s experience with LGBTQ+ issues was far more difficult than the survey results suggest. 

“[The results] were surprising because that’s not my personal experience and that’s also not the experiences we hear about at Levana from a lot of undergraduate students.”

Going forward, Everhart hopes that universities will improve the quantity and quality of the research concerning LGBTQ+ student experience.

“I hope that the primary thing [that universities] do with the results is look at way in which more research is necessary.”

Everhart said universities should recognize that lumping different populations of LGBTQ+ in research isn’t effective for analysing issues that could affect groups differently. 

“It might not lead to useful policy change that’s useful across the board for all people that are within the spectre of gender and sexual orientations.”

OUSA, a provincial advocacy organization that represents the collective interests of undergraduate and professional university students, conducts research related to the student experience.

The policy recommendation report released alongside the findings outlined three areas of improvement: resource allocation, policy-making and education. Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, president of OUSA, stated in the press released that LGBTQ+ students are experts in their own experience, and that OUSA looks forward to using those results to advocate on students’ behalf.

AMS Vice President (University Affairs) Sarah Letersky told The Journal via email that the AMS encouraged Queen’s students to participate in the survey through an email newsletter.

Letersky said because the survey included respondents from other universities, it’s hard to know what the survey means for Queen’s.

“The results of this survey will serve to inform next steps and future considerations when the AMS undertakes initiatives meant to improve the Queen’s community for queer-identified students,” she wrote.

Letersky said the finding that students who identify as LGBTQ+ still feel uncomfortable on many Ontario university campuses shows that there’s still work to be done.

“Making campuses safer and more accessible for all students is something the AMS, in conjunction with Queen’s and other OUSA member schools are continually working towards.”

Corrections

November 27, 2015

A majority of students surveyed reported that they felt comfortable and included on campus, not uncomfortable as the article originally stated. The headline was altered to reflect the correction.

Inaccurate information appeared in the Nov. 27 issue of The Journal.

The Journal regrets the error.

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