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Algonquin queers hassled

Campus posters ripped down, no space available

Posters promoting meetings of the queer group at Algonquin College are being vandalized again this year. And club officials say that the college’s student association seems to be turning a blind eye.

The tearing down of posters was the main topic of discussion Sep 21 at the queer group’s first meeting of the year.

GLBT Algonquin coordinator Nick Downer spent hours canvassing Algonquin’s common areas and bulletin boards with flyers promoting the group, only to have her efforts thwarted. Downer says sometimes she will pass by a spot where she had just affixed a poster to discover it had been torn down as quickly as she had posted it.

“I’ve talked to the student association about our posters being ripped down and they wouldn’t do anything about it,” Downer says.

Downer suggested that the student union move the queer group’s poster higher up on the walls or place them in the glassed in bulletin boards, but officials refused.

“Having our posters purposely ripped down is a hate crime, and they won’t do anything about it,” Downer says. “It’s the [student association’s] responsibility to ensure everyone is being treated fairly.”

Space has also been an issue for queer clubs of the past. While many other clubs have a designated permanent space in which to hold their meetings, student union officials say they are in a space crisis and cannot provide the gay group with a room.

“I think there has been some discrimination. What possessed them to give the Aboriginal group a permanent space, which is great, and I fully support that group, but you would think there are more GLBT students than Aboriginal students at Algonquin,” Downer says.

Downer adds that she doesn’t believe there isn’t enough space to go around, noting she stumbled on an unused room full of boxes.

But student association vice president Ben Martin says that there is in fact a spacing issue at the school.

“Everyone wants more and no one can have any,” Martin says.

He adds that the student union is responsible only for posters put on their own bulletin boards. Vandalism against the gay group’s posters is a security issue, he says.

“The [student association] is not here to police the school,” Martin said.

Gay groups have a sad past at Algonquin. Usually, they disappear months after founding. In past years, infighting has turned off members. This year, however, group members seem focussed on achieving a strong queer presence on campus and creating a space to meet.

Downer and co-coordinator Kyle Rocheleau say they’re determined to achieve this year’s goals. Downer admits she puts more effort into the club than into her school work. Her passion comes through in an interview. She speaks animatedly and seems to turn even the darkest story into something funny.

The inaugural meeting drew 12 students ranging in age from 17 to 35. Some group members discussed coming out stories and how they feel they are being treated in the classroom.

Emily Boucher, a 23-year-old Personal Relations student, says that the group is essential and all campuses should have one.

“I think that a GLBT centre is important at any campus, whether it be university or college, just because this is the period of time when the majority of [queer] students come out,” Boucher says. “It can be a difficult experience and if you don’t have a support group, you can find yourself in trouble, either delaying the coming out process or other forms of trouble that I won’t get into. There needs to be a presence on campus. I’ve heard there have been homophobic incidents here and we have to fight to advocate against that.”

Judging by those who turned up Sep 21, this year’s club can boast a lot of passionate members. Downer is optimistic that’s sufficient for it to succeed where past clubs have failed.

“I want to see a lot of things, like I want to see us have an art exhibition and all these cool things, but it will depend on how much people want to put into it. I was a part of the club two years ago and the meetings were really unorganized and they didn’t have a set schedule. I think that confused people. I’m going to try to keep it the same day of the week, bimonthly.”

Rocheleau says Algonquin is badly in need of a queer club. “School isn’t about just studying or getting drunk. You need to be able to feel comfortable no matter whoever or whatever you are.”