Union Gallery and PSAC 901 offers space for conversation and connection

Art exhibition works to create a safe space for international students on campus

Image by: Kaida Cheah
A space dedicated to airing migrant student frustrations is open until Dec. 6.

Union Gallery is collaborating with PSAC 901 to create a space for discourse on the binary between student and worker experienced by international graduate students at Queen’s. 

They created an art exhibition called the Migrant Dispatch, which showcased the experiences of migrant students through their submitted art. After a lack of submissions, Union Gallery decided to add an open mic component, Prerna Subramanian, equity officer at PSAC 901, told The Journal.

“We changed it to an active project where people could use the space to meet and talk and discuss issues in a non-overwhelming place,” Subramanian said in an interview.

At the open mic night on Nov. 9 in the Gallery, graduate students could air their concerns as international student workers and build a sense of community. The event featured a collaborative sign making project to informally survey students’ concerns.

“This was the first step to temperature check—what are students thinking about? Where is their mental health at this point? What are their top concerns?” Subramanian said. 

PSAC 901 is actively working to eradicate the binary labels of student and worker used by the university and the federal government to alleviate international graduate student concerns, Subramanian said.

“In no way are we living double lives; we are not moonlighting as workers versus students—it’s a simultaneous reality for many [international students].”

“The whole idea of of temporary residence is built on the assumption that a lot of us will go back to our home countries, but so many of us come from countries where there is no option of going back home. There’s a reason people came out of their homes and so we sought to bring these issues together, asking students to tell us about their homes, where they came from, and what’s happening there.” 

Performers at the open mic night broached topics of affordable housing, landlord exploitation, and comparative government treatment under the consistent theme of oppression faced by migrant students.

“We sought to bring these issues together, asking students to tell us about their homes, where they came from, and what’s happening there,” Subramanian added.

Subramanian and the rest of the PSAC 901 executive team decided the union must be a place of friendship and joy to counter the despairing discourse taking place within the organization. 

“The Union Gallery was an interesting place because it’s run for and by the students,” Subramanian said. “It felt in sync with who we are.”

The Migrant Dispatch space is open for students to enter, vent, and write out their frustrations at the Union Gallery until Dec. 6. 

The union’s next steps are to continue to cater to community building. They’re organizing a film screening of the Canadian Labour International Film Festival and a research assistant social over the next few weeks. 

Interested students are encouraged to see PSAC 901’s socials for more information on these events and how else they can get involved with the union.


international students, migrant, PSAC 901, Union Gallery, Unions

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