Pride Western: 'We’re falling apart'

Seven executives resigned, it’s over its budget and barely functioning

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Sign on PrideWestern Door

Jon Purdy

THE COLDNESS OF A CLOSED DOOR. Due to serious dissension in the upper ranks of PrideWestern, the service currently cannot provide all the elements required of a University Students' Council service. See our editorial for elaboration on the issue.

With seven executive resignations in the past year and a complete restructuring in the works, PrideWestern is in a moment of crisis. Will the floundering service stay afloat or become a sinking ship?

PrideWestern is the University Students’ Council service dedicated to supporting and celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, asexual, queer and questioning students and their allies at Western.

Currently, the service is functioning with less than half its original executive, most of whom resigned for personal reasons.

“We’re falling apart, to be totally honest with you,” PrideWestern’s social director for large events Chad Callander said. “We can barely hold our regular events.”

Meghan Adams, last year’s PrideWestern co-ordinator and former activism director, echoed Callander’s sentiment. “PrideWestern was in a period where it was bleeding executives and not getting any transfusions.”

Three years ago, PrideWestern became a service from its origins as a USC club " a transition that brought forth a myriad of challenges.

“[The USC] pushed the club into a different mandate,” James Arthurs, USC VP-campus issues, explained.

Current PrideWestern co-ordinator Jamie East said the service’s constitution was reworked from its original club constitution and is now outdated.

East is intent on defining PrideWestern’s mandate and rebuilding the student-run service from the ground up.

“What I want to have by the time I leave is the PrideWestern manual,” he said.

Similar services on other university campuses appear to be ahead of PrideWestern.

East contrasted PrideWestern to the successful services of many universities, which he said tend to be better funded.

For instance, the University of Regina funds GBLUR Sexuality and Gender Diversity, an entire centre for sexuality and gender diversity.

At Queen’s University, the Positive Space program offers support and resources for the campus’ gay community and is co-sponsored by the Alma Mater Society committee Education on Queer Issues Project, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group and the Queen’s Human Rights Office.

The Positive Space committee contains students, faculty, community members and university representatives, committee member Jeff Brown explained.

Arthurs said launching a diversity centre would be highly beneficial to students and noted PrideWestern’s budget is probably the smallest in Canada.

But he said it would be a mistake to simply hand over more funding.

“That’s not going to solve the problems,” Arthurs said. “The first step is getting input.”

On March 6, PrideWestern attempted to achieve that through a general meeting. The forum followed two sessions run by Arthurs earlier this semester, which focused on gaining feedback on all USC services.

Some say these efforts may be too late to revive PrideWestern before the end of the year, however.

Jason Campbell, former director of external affairs for PrideWestern, resigned at the beginning of the semester and cited the service’s disorganization and lack of leadership as the reasons for his departure.

Like Arthurs, Campbell said a larger budget is not the best solution.

“I do not think PrideWestern should be allotted more funding until they can get a grasp on a standardized bookkeeping system that would be used yearly, as well as just organizing the groups’ on-goings in general,” Campbell said.

“Much of the funding is wasted, but there is no way to really track it due to the lack of a sufficient bookkeeping system.”

East admitted the service is currently over its $6,560 annual budget raised through student fees. However, costs add up quickly he said.

For instance, PrideWestern spent $500 on 150 copies of its ’zine, $1,700 on bracelets and $500 on awareness buttons early in the year. East said these little things are essential, but eat up a huge chunk of the service’s budget.

Many past and present PrideWestern executives argue merchandise and social events are not the most important part of the service’s mandate.

“We can’t just be a social service,” Chelsea Cameron, PrideWestern’s director of finance and administration, said.

Cameron said many members of the gay community were disappointed with PrideWestern’s lack of involvement in the controversy surrounding Health Canada’s ban on blood and organ donations from men who have had sex with men.

After resigning from PrideWestern last semester, Adams joined Students Against Queer Discrimination, an activist group fighting the ban.

She noted PrideWestern had no presence at SAQD’s day of action in Ottawa last month, unlike similar services from other universities.

“PrideWestern and the [USC] VP-campus issues need to understand that it’s not just about coffeehouses or candlelight vigils … it’s about building a community of support,” Adams said.

Many outside individuals have come forward hoping to be involved with the service, Adams added, but often felt stonewalled by its executives.

“There needs to be a fundamental change in how PrideWestern is run,” Adams concluded.

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