The University of Toronto will lose an advocate for gay and lesbian people on Sept 30 with the departure of Jude Tate, the university’s sexual and gender diversity officer.
“It’s a great time to move on and have someone else open up the spaces for conversations and continue the work that I and others have been working on,” she says.
The Sexual and Gender Diversity Office provides sexuality and gender equity advocacy, education, policy recommendations and programming for students, staff and faculty at U of T.
Tate was instrumental in the addition of an employment equity statement on all job postings that ensures the university’s commitment to an equitable workplace. She also helped with the collection of data that indicated 5.4 percent of the university’s workforce identifies as belonging to a sexual minority. Tate also initiated a queer student leadership symposium and an initiative to stamp out homophobia in varsity athletics.
Tate is moving, with her partner, to Vancouver and taking on a role at the University of British Columbia, in student success. Tate’s partner, Louise Cowin, will leave her position as warden of U of T’s Hart House to become UBC’s vice-president of students.
The transition has been complicated by the resignation of the office’s only other staff member.
“Jude Tate, Sexual & Gender Diversity Officer, and Adam Morrison, Program Coordinator, will both be leaving the University as of the end of this month to pursue other opportunities. Jude will be taking on a new position at UBC and Adam has accepted a position with the Ontario Government,” wrote Angela Hildyard, the school’s vice-president of HR on the office’s website. “Please be assured that the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office will continue to operate. We will announce the name of an interim staff member shortly and will be commencing a search for permanent staff.”
According to students, Tate’s replacement will have large, well-worn shoes to fill.
“She has a sense of history and knows the university and administration inside and out, and we’ll miss her help navigating that,” says Simon Bredin, public affairs director of LGBTOut, one of U of T’s gay student groups. “She’s one of a kind. It’s the end of an era.”
To ensure that Tate’s replacement is the right choice, Bredin’s organization has requested that Hildyard include a student on the selection committee. He is awaiting a response and is confident that while an interim officer has not been named at post time, the office will reopen on Monday, Oct 3.
Tate sees fulfilling work for her successor.
“There has been massive change in the university setting and socially, but I also think we’ve been privileged here in Toronto,” she says. “We are somewhat in a bubble and when we step out, we see that conservative views and attitudes towards sexual diversity are quite strong and result in high rates of depression and suicide in our community.”
The University of Toronto also operates campuses in Mississauga and Scarborough, which Tate feels are “not easy places for youth to be out, not even for adults.”
To incoming students, Tate has a message. “Be at the front of the classroom,” she says. “At U of T, there is lots of opportunity to get involved but not for students who overinvest outside of the classroom.”