UCARE centre to open this spring

140 Stuart Street to house inclusivity groups

The new centre will be located at 140 Stuart St.

This spring, the University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE) will be opening a space for social justice clubs and inclusivity on campus. 

Formal discussions about the proposed centre initially occurred at UCARE’s inaugural meeting in March of 2018. 

The proposal follows concerns brought up at the meeting from both council members and club representatives that there was little guaranteed club space on campus. The high number of both AMS and SGPS clubs means finding bookable meeting places can be a challenge.

Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Teri Shearer was tasked with identifying a location and consulting with the involved interested groups. 

“A primary purpose of the space is to provide some predictable club space for some of the either AMS or SGPS ratified clubs on campus, whose mandate is to promote social justice or inclusion of marginalized community members,” Shearer told The Journal in an interview.

She added the centre would also be a place for casual socializing, similar to the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre.

While the centre was proposed under the title the “Alfie Pierce Centre for Racial Equity and Social Justice,” Shearer said the centre’s name is still under consideration. 

She said the process of approval for naming a building after an individual is a lengthy one. To avoid delays, the focus is currently on opening the centre as soon as possible, instead of naming it.

Despite the demand, Shearer faced difficulties in securing a space for the centre. Initially, the proposed location was on Albert Street.

Designs and estimates had already been put in motion for the location when a construction assessment revealed the floor joists of the three-story house were severely compromised.

Shearer explained their options to proceed with the location required demolition or lengthy, costly renovation. Another house on Albert Street was proposed next—a building which currently houses the Employee Health and Safety (EHS) staff group.  

However, there were concerns over attempting accessibility renovations while staff remained working in the building.

It was late in the fall term when Shearer viewed 140 Stuart St., the former location of Student Wellness Services’ Health Promotion Group, which has since moved to Mitchell Hall. 

Shearer said the space isn’t as big as other locations but can accommodate their plans. The building provides open lounge space, a kitchen, and a number of large office spaces. The main floor is entirely accessible with an accessibility ramp to the main entrance. The second floor isn’t accessible as of yet, but Shearer said future renovations could be considered if the space proves popular. 

Because the building doesn’t require construction, the project can move ahead.

“We’re aiming to start moving people in March,” Shearer said. 

She said the next step is to issue a call for Expressions of Interest from student groups who’d like to be considered for the space. The call for interest should be announced within the next two weeks.

“I would have liked to get Expressions of Interest for space out ahead of the winter break but what happened is it just got too close to final exams.”

Shearer’s in the process of organizing a sub-committee of UCARE to prioritize the requests of space—priority given to those who currently don’t have any space at all.

The sub-committee will be comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students, a representative from Student Affairs and Stephanie Simpson, the associate vice-principal (human rights, equity and inclusion).

“I’m hoping we can accommodate most of the demand and if there are smaller groups that don’t need regular space, we might be able to keep one of the offices bookable, so groups that aren’t permanently located there can perhaps use it.”

Shearer said she must determine the demands of the space before addressing the specific needs of different groups. 

The University is covering the costs of the new space; the funds are from the Principal’s Implementation Committee, which responded to recommendations from the 2017 Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Task Force recommendations. 

Through the committee, Principal Daniel Woolf publicly promised $1 million in university funds annually for three years to address the recommendations.

Shearer described the centre as part of the University’s continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Personally, I’m really excited to have this space open and I’m looking forward to working with the students to try to make it really a good space for them.”

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