Earlier this semester, Simon Fraser Student Society’s Out on Campus (OOC) — a centre that provides support services and learning space for LGBTQ+ individuals — had to temporarily halt its activities because its previous volunteer and program coordinator, Kyle McCloy, decided to part ways with the program. After a month of inactivity, OOC reopened its doors last week for the university community to access its services.
From February 7 to March 12, 2018, Simon Fraser University students, faculty, and staff were unable to access the OOC office because the centre didn’t have its volunteer and program coordinator to organize and manage its programming and volunteers.
After a rigorous and extensive hiring process, Dani McNeil-Willmott, who uses the pronouns they/them/their, was appointed as the new volunteer and program coordinator for OOC.
McNeil-Willmott noted that, during this period of closure, OOC’s assistant coordinator remained diligent in replying to all of the centre’s emails as well as communicating with its frequent visitors, and the SFU community.
“The Out on Campus space was closed, but [the assistant coordinator] was situated in the all genders resource area of the Women’s Centre for that period. She was present to maintain email communication, social media, and ad hoc volunteer opportunities,” said McNeil-Willmott.
McNeil-Willmott also explained that the OOC office was closed for a month to ensure that the ideal candidate for the coordinator position would be found. “Time was taken in order to ensure that there was an ideal fit for the position so that Out on Campus can have a period of stability and work towards building a really solid program for students at SFU,” they stated.
Moreover, McNeil-Willmott also noted that this abrupt closure of the OOC office did definitely impact the lives of LGBTQ+ students on campus.
“While the all genders resource centre of the Women’s Centre was open and available for access, not having a specifically designated space for these students has been disorienting and confusing,” said McNeil-Willmott. “There is a clear need for the SFSS Out on Campus space, and so not having the centre present leaves a clear gap in resource services for students.”
With their new role as coordinator, McNeil-Willmott expressed that they would like to foster a stronger and inclusive campus culture through initiatives such as educating the university community about queer and trans*-related issues, as well as implementing accessible spaces for LGBTQ+ students on campus.
“Out on Campus is first and foremost a service for students, that’s why I am committed to hearing what folks have to say in terms of what they want to see the centre look like moving forward . . . I’m coming into a position that requires a lot of love and healing, so I realize that it’s going to take some time to gain [students’] trust that I have their best interests and the centre’s best interests at heart,” said McNeil-Willmott.
In addition, McNeil-Willmott emphasized that although they have a lot of exciting new programs and projects that they would like to bring to OOC, it is ultimately the students whose feedback will give them a better understanding of what needs to be changed and what needs to be prioritized in order to make OOC a comfortable and safe space for everyone.
“Out on Campus needs to be revamped and relaunched, but I don’t want to be the sole voice of that moving forward. I want to get people involved and excited about being [a part] of the centre . . . I know there [have] been comments in the past about how the space hasn’t been the most comfortable for certain groups of folks, but I want to work really hard to undo that,” they concluded.