Human Rights Office moves to Mac-Corry

New location may pose obstacle to access and confidentiality

The University’s Human Rights Office has moved, and office staff said they’re concerned with their new location’s privacy and smaller space.

Previously located in the Old Medical Building, the HRO moved to Mac-Corry A-320 on Aug. 8. The Office of Advancement now occupies the old space.

Stephanie Simpson, HRO human rights advisor, said the offices are fine but it’s the office location that’s problematic.

“It’s a little more difficult to access and more difficult to go through,” Simpson said, adding that there are no accessible washrooms on the floor. The new office is located beside the Enrichment Studies Unit, which offers courses to high school-aged students.

“There’s quite a lot of traffic here and there will be a lot of grade school kids [around the office],” she said.

Simpson said the old office was not ideal, but accessibility was better and there was less traffic the building housed mostly administrative offices.

Another major issue at the new office is confidentiality, she said.

“There’s simply a lot more traffic, so people may be concerned about being able to see an advisor confidentially. We’re concerned about how it’ll affect the community.”

Due to space issues, the office has curtailed certain programs, and groups won’t be able to have a meeting space at the new location.

The office’s resource centre is now located in the reception area, because there isn’t room elsewhere.

“Having a space available for students and staff is really key,” Simpson said, adding that while it’s not difficult to book an alternative space at the University, they now have to think twice before planning meetings.

“It’s about the message that gets sent to the community when this kind of office can’t be home to certain initiatives.”

Stephanie Simpson said the University discussed alternative locations, such as the old Writing Centre on Stuart Street, but that building was identified as being not entirely accessible after a Disability Services audit identified the building as not entirely accessible.

HRO director Irène Bujara said the office won’t be able to hire an intern this year because there’s not enough room available for volunteers to work in.

“We can’t have as many volunteers unless we can send them out,” Bujara said. “It was never ideal … We felt bad that students were cornered away, but at least they had the chance.” Bujara said an ideal space for the HRO would be easily accessible and central but not too visible.

“It’s not a disaster, and we’re working to identify a better space,” she said. “The needs of the community are uppermost in our minds.” Stephanie Simpson said she trusts the administration will respond to their concerns.

“We’re not looking for anything glamorous. It’s about meeting the needs of the community,” she said. “We hope the student body will continue to be aware we’re a service that’s open and available to them. It’s something that’s theirs. It they have concerns, they should feel free to raise them.” Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), cited After almost two years of ongoing discussion regarding alternative office spaces, the HRO was given two weeks’ notice in late July to move to their new location in Mackintosh-Corry Hall.

lack of space as the reason for the move.

“The University is short of space in a vast number of areas,” he said. “There are great inadequacies of space in many departments.”

The administration has been working with the HRO for the last two years to find a more permanent space for the office.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been struggling to find a space that exactly fits their needs,” vice-principal Simpson said. “We’re viewing this as a temporary move. We are in the process of finding something that’ll be more permanent that will hopefully meet their needs in the future.”

He added that the HRO’s old space wasn’t expected to be permanent.

“It wasn’t a surprise that this had to happen,” he said. “I’m not aware that this will affect students in any more negative a way … or in any other way in which it affects other departments in the university.”

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