For the first time in the University of British Columbia’s history, a fund has been set up to train an entire faculty in LGBT-inclusive initiatives.
Starting in September 2016, every faculty member, staff person and student in UBC’s Faculty of Education will get training on every level: from bathrooms to teacher-training to policy inclusion and climate within the faculty, all the way to the dean, says the faculty’s senior associate dean, Mary K Bryson.
It will no longer be one teacher at a time; it will be the entire faculty, says Bryson, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they.” And next year, another faculty will hopefully get its turn, they say.
“This is really major because this is not an add-on, or only a statement that appears on the wall, or wherever people make a commitment,” Bryson explains. “Our aim here was that we need to be able to put the Positive Space sticker on the outside of the whole Scarfe Building where we deliver the Bachelor of Education program, not just outside an individual faculty member’s door.”
The groundbreaking project is being funded by a $125,000 grant from the ARC Foundation. Its first initiative will launch this fall with its Teacher Education for All! Project.
“Teacher Education for All! is the first in UBC’s history to target, at a scale that cuts across the whole faculty, social justice objectives related to systemic discrimination, sexual orientation and gender identity,” says project director and associate dean Wendy Carr in a press release.
“The people of British Columbia benefit directly when the preparation of teacher candidates includes LGB/T2/Q cultural competency goals and training to make every learning space a safer space and every educational setting a fully inclusive climate,” Carr says.
Asked to explain the rationale behind the project, Bryson quotes Prime Minister (and UBC education graduate) Justin Trudeau. “Because it’s 2016,” Bryson says.
“We know that in order to save lives — healthcare providers, teachers, social workers — there are competency issues related to gender identity and expression, and related to sexual orientation, that need to be part of the education of all those providers who are going to be interacting with other people,” Bryson says.
Education programs for various professions, such as education, medicine, social work and nursing, generally lack a focus on how to interact in a culturally competent way with people around sexuality and gender, Bryson explains. They hope to expand the model to other faculties in future years.
“We’re really hoping the following year we might be able to make use of our experiences in Education and then interest our colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine or the nursing group,” they say.
The project will set up a working group this fall to review existing policies and produce an LGBT inclusion statement for Bachelor of Education syllabuses, as well as a communications campaign that will share information such as a gender-neutral washrooms map. The group will also organize LGBT-inclusion workshops to increase understanding and capacity, review the curriculum to identify gaps and goals, and present a public expo at the project’s conclusion.
Bryson says transgender and two-spirit people in particular have long been neglected in curriculum. “Their needs are everywhere, whether it’s just thinking about how people have responded to the difficulties around trans people accessing the right bathroom, protecting kids against bullying in schools or people getting decent health care,” they say.
“All of it, in a very important way, is about gender and about sexual orientation education, and if we change teachers — if we help teachers to educate in a way that is inclusive — then we can change the world.”