Addressing the 2019 BIPoC Lounge Temporary Closure
In November 4, 2019, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association temporarily closed the UWSA BIPoC Lounge, a space for racialized students on campus to gather and find community.
The decision was made by the 2019-20 Executive team, in consultation with UWSA staff, due to concerns around substance abuse and conflict between lounge members, particularly Black and Indigenous students.
The UWSA acknowledges that our response in November failed racialized students on campus when they needed us. Any decision should have been made with consultation with lounge members from a harm reduction lens and we needed to come from a place of understanding instead of blame.
Anti-Blackness and systemic racism at the UWSA is something we have been working on for the last few months and we’re grateful for the students and employees who have raised their voice to hold us accountable.
In order to move towards healing, we recognize that change must come from within. We will make sure that marginalized voices are represented in our decisions going forward. When making tough decisions, we are committed to involving the communities affected by those decisions and communicating transparently.
To start the process, we are reviewing and updating our Positive Space Policy. This Policy will guide us in creating a safer space for People of Colour at the UWSA. Until the policy is constructed, our service centres will operate under the guidelines set by UWinnipeg’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy, which seeks to create a campus environment where members of the University community are free from harassment and discrimination.
The BIPOC Lounge is currently active online and we’re grateful for the members that continue to support the lounge and persevere despite our shortcomings. We are dedicated to creating safer and better ways to come together while respecting and acknowledging the experiences of BIPoC students.
If you have any concerns regarding discrimination or harassment in any UWSA service centre, or wish to provide feedback on policy development, please contact our Services Manager, Binara Hewagamage at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association