Positive thinking

Unable to secure unanimous vote, CESA goes without Positive Space sticker again

Many faculties have Positive Space stickers, Positive Space committee coordinator says.
Many faculties have Positive Space stickers, Positive Space committee coordinator says.
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Members of the Concurrent Education Students’ Association’s (CESA) council and extended council voted this year to not to display a Positive Space sticker in their shared office space.

“I have heard a lot of rumors that … have been going around,” said CESA President Philip Lloyd. “I want to make it very clear that CESA is not, has not and will never be an association that is not a respectful and compassionate association and open to every single person no matter what their sexual orientation.”

The Positive Space Program offers informational sessions for campus groups whose members can then vote on whether to display a sticker denoting the space as a location “in which sexual and gender identity is affirmed and individuals can receive support and information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) issues.” A unanimous vote by all members sharing the space is required for the stickers to be displayed. CESA has voted on this issue before, Lloyd said, but it’s never received an unanimous vote.

“Everybody on council and extended council is mandated to take this training and it’s actually open to everybody within ConEd as well,” Lloyd, ConEd ’13 said.

He added that he’s unsure how many CESA council members voted against the program, but he believes the majority were in favour of it.

When Lloyd, External Vice-President Ariel Fan and Internal Vice-President Catherine Franey were running for office, they advocated building on the previous executive’s changes to the size of the Main Council, which saw it reduced from 43 members to 23.

With the addition of more extended council positions, however, the total number of voting members is currently 47, all of whom share one space.

“CESA is a little unique in that we have a lot of people who share one office,” Lloyd said. “A lot of other faculties have fewer people who share an office or they have a lot more individual offices. I don’t have my own office, for example.”

He said it’s important to him that those 600 students feel comfortable and safe visiting CESA’s office despite the Positive Space Program not being in place.

“We are always working to make sure that even though the sticker is not there that CESA presents itself as a respectful and compassionate association,” he said. “It’s my belief that the commitment of the majority of the council and extended council members will uphold this environment and will drown out the small percentage of people who may work to disrupt that.”

Robert Barnett-Kemper, ConEd ’14, said he agrees that the CESA office is a tolerant place.

“Whether there’s a sticker or not on a CESA office I can promise you, you won’t find anyone who’s discriminating,” he said. “I think that what happened is some people were confused about maybe how the positive space sticker works.”

Barnett-Kemper, who’s not a member of the CESA council or extended council, said he doesn’t think positive space status is something that should have to be voted on.

“You should have to have a positive space sticker,” he said. “The idea of the positive space is that people are allowed to go and talk about issues that relate to queer culture, and by putting a positive space sticker you are saying that you are willing and able to have that conversation.

“If you’re able to take a vote on whether you’re able to have a conversation like that, I think that’s contradictory to what the positive space is all about.”

But Positive Space Committee Coordinator Jean Pfleiderer said the CESA vote exemplifies exactly how the program is supposed to work.

“[The voters]should be able to be anonymous,” she said.

She said many faculties, student groups and administrative groups on campus display large group stickers and many others have smaller stickers for their individual offices.

The positive space committee encourages a high level of participation in the two-hour training sessions for all groups considering positive space status, she said, as well as unanimous support from its members in order to get a sticker.

She added that she doesn’t want people to be under the impression that faculties or groups are under an onus to vote in favour of the program if any of their members aren’t comfortable with it.

“If they were to post the sticker and there are people who are in the space who aren’t comfortable with it, we can’t be comfortable that it will be a really safe space,” Pfleiderer said.

“It’s not fair to advertise that it’s going be a positive space if some people there are not aware what that means.”

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