Education for social change

Has your mind ever gone on a rant about all the things that are wrong with society? If yes, then I’m sure once you start, you spiral deeper and deeper into it until you come to the realization that everything is related.

It’s like a domino effect. It also seems impossible to pinpoint one solution, because for change to occur, many forces have to act in synchrony. On this note, I’m a strong believer that accessible, collective education would be a great place to start.

Personally, I feel like the more I know and learn, the more convinced I am that society’s evils will not change—at least not during my lifetime. This sounds conformist and hypocritical of me because I still try to be a social activist in my own way, in my everyday life. But it is hard to picture a world that’s more equal, caring, green, tolerant, empathetic, fair and so on when large numbers of people all around the world don’t have access to higher knowledge. One could argue that people can seek to learn in their own ways, but that’s just a weak argument. Especially when you consider how according to Humanium, 72 million children in the world are not in school. Or how poverty, marginalization and inequality have paved the way for 759 million adults to be illiterate and clueless about how to improve their conditions and the conditions of their children.

Isn’t that depressing––especially when you realize that these figures only consider access to primary education? Thus, reflecting how much of a privilege higher education really is. Even though BBC news has claimed that Canada has become “an education superpower,” by having 55 per cent of adults in the workforce with degrees, this still means 45 per cent of employees don’t have one. Plus, these figures don’t even take into consideration all unemployed adults that have achieved further education.

Although this is all a bit too grim, it is a great opportunity for us students to acknowledge how privileged we are to be in a higher education institution. Because even though we might not believe so today, we can change things in the future. Who knows, maybe one of you reading this will become a person with power and high morals one day. Education and awareness are tools we must value and use wisely, especially when you consider the large numbers of people who do not have the same luck. If we work towards making education a right, we’ll have a better chance at social improvement.

Making education available would create an elevated state of collective consciousness. This would challenge the status quo and would make a better world more tangible and possible. But as long as we remain an individualist and capital-driven society, the social gap will continue to broaden. The powerful and wealthy segments of society benefit through inequality, and why wouldn’t they when it is so profitable? This mentality combined with weak morals has kept the population ignorant.

Yeah, that might sound sort of leftist of me, but it isn’t, it’s just humanitarian thinking. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova

Student Life

Slice of Life: Peeing in peace

It shouldn’t be so hard to make washrooms gender-neutral on campus

Ah, gender-neutral washrooms: so controversial (sigh), yet so simple. News flash! Everyone has a gender-neutral washroom in their home, and everyone deserves access to a facility that suits their needs. But the call for more gender-neutral washrooms goes far beyond that. It’s about advocating for the right to feel safe in a washroom—a right cisgender people often don’t think about.

Many ideological and physical constructs of society, right down to the way washrooms are designed, exclude many LGBTQ+ members. Non-binary people having to choose between ticking off ‘male’ or ‘female’ on certain forms; trans people having to choose which washroom to use—or choose to not use the washroom altogether—are all examples of these exclusionary structures.

D.T, a trans advocate and public educator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, said it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number and location of accessible gender-neutral washrooms across the Concordia campuses. “I also have a problem with ‘single-stalled’ washrooms in general,” said D.T. “Why do we have to exclude ourselves, and further isolate ourselves?”

Ella Webber, a trans student at Concordia, said they found a list of gender-neutral washrooms on the Centre for Gender Advocacy website. It also has information about other resources available to trans and non-binary students, both at Concordia and around Montreal. “Concordia never mentioned that in [the] orientation which I went to,” said Webber. D.T. explained that the list on the centre’s website hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t account for construction on campus that may bar accessibility. “I think at orientation we should be notified about Concordia’s queer facilities like [the centre] and their resources,” said Webber. “When I do find [gender-neutral washrooms] it’s super helpful, and so much more comfortable for me as a trans person.”

Personally, I know there are single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms on the Loyola campus on the second floor of the CC building, in the Hive Café, and in the basement of the CJ building. D.T. informed me that, in the H building on the downtown campus, Reggies bar, the other Hive Café, plus the 5th, 7th and 10th floors, all have gender-neutral washrooms as well (although, due to construction on the 7th floor, the washroom is currently inaccessible—same goes for the VA building).

D.T. and the centre described the H building as extremely problematic in terms of accessibility, one of the reasons being that many of the single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms in the building are shared with wheelchair users. This means they are only accessible with an access code or key provided by the security desk on the first floor (not where the washrooms are). Trans and non binary students not only have to locate the gender-neutral washrooms that are actually open on all of three floors in the Hall building (total number of floors is 12), and plan to get the necessary key or access code, but, after all that, once at the security desk, they may be asked to justify their needs to the security officer. “They run the risk of being outed and asked intensive questions,” she said. “It’s super shitty.”

D.T. met with Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, a few months ago to communicate the centre’s goals—both short and long-term—for the gender-neutral washrooms project. Short term, they would like to see three types of washrooms: an all-gender washroom available to everyone, trans or not, regardless of their gender identity and expression; a men’s washroom for men, male-identifying or transmasculine persons; and a women’s washroom for women, female-identifying or transfeminine persons, explained D. T.

Long term, the centre would like all washrooms to be gender-neutral, thus “respecting everyone’s right to choose the washroom that is appropriate for them.” While Woodall was very supportive of the centre’s project and their demands, he said these changes would take time. “The centre is not satisfied with this response,” said D.T. She also explained how something as simple as changing signage to actually indicate whether a washroom is gender-neutral helps increase accessibility and awareness. “We don’t want only promises,” she said. “We would like the university to put a concrete plan in place to get us to our goal.”

I’m a big fan of the ‘my rights end where your rights begin’ logic, so let’s talk privilege for a second. Do you navigate your days thinking about where the next available and safe washroom is? Do you mediate your liquid intake so you don’t have to go as frequently? If you answered ‘no’ to the above, I’d suggest rethinking the privilege—yes privilege—you have of simply using a washroom. Everyone should be able to pee in peace.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Updated on Jan. 9. 2024

In the original version of the article, one of the two sources was named fully. One of the sources has since requested to be left anonymous.

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