Take a look at what these advocacy groups have to offer
During the second week of the fall semester the five UVic advocacy groups came together for the first Advo Week. The week allowed the advocacy groups to show UVic students what they have to offer.
The main purpose of Advo Week as Cristina Venturin, the outreach coordinator of the Gender Empowerment Centre (GEM) and the organiser of Advo Week, said was, “to try to teach the student body more about the spaces that we have, the work that we do, and how we’re trying to shift campus culture.”
The week featured different engaging events for the UVic student body. It kicked off with an interview with the outreach coordinators on the campus radio station — CFUV — and had sex toy bingo on the Tuesday, as well as a live music event held at Felicita’s on the Friday. The groups also tabled at the clubs and course union fair both Wednesday and Thursday, all with the goal to reach and engage with more students.
But who are these groups that are advocating for the student body?
Native Students Union (NSU)
The main purpose of the NSU, as stated on their website is to “form community, support each other, advocate for Indigenous rights and wellbeing, and just exist together at the institution.”
NSU has two physical spaces for Indigenous students. One is located in the First People’s House and the other is located in the Student Union Building (SUB). The space comes equipped with a lounge, kitchenette, computers, a bookshelf, and snacks to help students feel comfortable in the environment. Students are encouraged to sign up on the NSU website to gain access to the space.
“We’re really trying to bring culture into students’ lives,” said Peter Underwood, coordinator for NSU. Upcoming events include tattoo workshops, plant walks, and possibly a drum making workshop.
Gender Empowerment Centre (GEM)
GEM is a collective run to represent, encourage, and organise support for the needs of non-binary, trans, self-identified women, and gender non-conforming members of the community.
As Venturin states, “the pillars of GEM are anti-oppression, sex positivity, and intersectional feminism.”
GEM is located in the SUB, where students are welcome to a couch, heated blankets and pads, as well as safe sex and mentrual cycle supplies. The room also has an intersectional feminist library for students to pick a book from if interested.
GEM also offers gender diversity workshops that deals with conversations about sex and gender. In addition to this, they will be hosting their second annual SEXPO in February to encourage sex positivity in the community.
Students of Colour Collective (SOCC)
SOCC is a collective that represents self-identified BIPOC students at UVic.
Located in the SUB, the SOCC space is open to the SOCC community. A designated study space hosts two couches, computers, a printing service as well as a library for students to take out books as they please.
“That’s an open space for any of (the SOCC community) to come to” said Maya Mersereau-Liem, coordinator for the SOCC. “Then, next door is my office. So people can come when they need support, advocacy, you know, just anything, really.”
SOCC regularly hosts potlucks and film screenings to bring the community together.
The group has recently reintroduced their artist-in-residence program, where an artist from the community works with SOCC to create artwork on topics of anti-racism, decolonization, and BIPOC joy.
Mersereau-Liem also teased that SOCC may be releasing a recipe book with recipes that have been passed down in families of members of the collective. This project intends to help foster a community that links stories, culture, and food together.
UVic Pride represents LGBTQ2SIA+ students in the UVic community.
The space in the SUB offers a lounge, library, and a gender-neutral bathroom. UVic Pride offers free chest binders and large sized feminine shoes for students to take as needed.
UVic Pride also has their own Minecraft server for students to join. Additionally, the group will soon be offering community circles to encourage discussions on identity, offered to students of sub-communities of UVic Pride.
Society for Students with a Disability (SSD)
The SSD is a group that works to help support students with self-identified disabilities in their student lives.
SSD has a physical space in the SUB where students can talk to the Office Coordinator, Adrean Meuser, if they need any support. The space has adaptive learning technology available if students would like to access them. They also have a discord server that students may join to further connect with their community.
Currently, the SSD has an ongoing campaign, #Access4All, which is continuously working to remove barriers for students returning to campus, in advocating for hybrid learning opportunities.
SSD also hosts events such as workshops to discuss accessibility, nutrition, gender, and sexuality with disabilities. In addition to this, SSD hosts campus strolls to build community presence on UVic’s campus.
While the NSU, GEM, SOCC, UVic Pride, and SSD help to advocate for different groups of people, their goals all include brightening the UVic community for students who may have felt left behind. Although Advo Week might’ve been some UVic students’ first time seeing these advocacy groups on campus, it definitely won’t be the last.