About the Toolkit
We would like to acknowledge and thank the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) for their generous support which enabled us to create this Toolkit. Moreover, we would like to express our profound gratitude to our supervisor and friend Kathryn Travers for her continuous encouragement, unceasing commitment, and the vast inspiration she gave to us throughout this project. Finally, thank you to our all our collaborators, who met with us and provided both guidance and invaluable insight. We couldn’t have completed the Toolkit without all of you.
We would like to acknowledge that our work was done on the traditional and unceded territory of the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk), a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst nations.
Who We Are
We are Right to Campus McGill — a student initiative created with the goal of promoting and propagating an inclusive, equitable, and safe university culture. We are a part of Women in Cities International, a nonprofit that works to foster women’s safety and involvement in urban environments. Our campaign is based on the concept of the “Right to the City”, first discussed in sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s 1968 book, Le Droit à la Ville. According to Lefebvre, having a right to a public space is about more than just the right to being physically present in the space, but as well a right to engage and interact with the space in a secure and equitable manner. Our work views the “right to the city” through an intersectional feminist lens. In this sense, we recognize and work to highlight the fact that public space is experienced differently by individuals depending on their identities and the context in which they reside.
Through the support of McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund, we developed the Right to Campus Toolkit. The overall aim is to ensure that McGill’s campus upholds its commitment to being an equitable and safe space for all. We want all to feel safe while engaging on campus on personal, community, and systemic levels. We acknowledge that various dimensions of a person’s identity affect the way that they experience public space, including the space of McGill campus. Therefore, we aim to have this Toolkit promote discussion and activism in order to support equity on campus, taking into account the intersections of oppression catalyzed by gender, race, class, (dis)ability and sexuality. Ideally, university campuses should enable their students to affirm and develop their sense of identity rather than efface them. Campuses should offer a space of support so that each student is able to use the educative tools at their disposal to the best of their ability. Every student has a right to their campus, through means such as equitable access to their classroom, feeling safe and welcome at social events or while seeking health services, to be heard by their student government, and to be supported and protected by their administration. Therefore, Right to Campus works to protect this right, and encourages other students to do so as well.
Our Toolkit is based on three pillars: inform, navigate, and empower. The Toolkit will serve as a resource to be consulted by students should they seek either campus-related information; connectivity and communication with other McGill students, clubs, services, faculty, staff, or administration; or should they desire tools to empower them in fostering sustainable social activism, with the goal of promoting greater safety and equity on campus and within the McGill community. This toolkit will focus primarily on the space of the Downtown campus.
The intended audience for this Toolkit is the McGill student body. Students not only comprise the vast majority of the McGill population, but also spend the most significant amount of time on campus and within the McGill community. In turn, we believe they have an accurate vision of the most pressing issues plaguing our campus, and they have important ideas for solutions and courses of action to improve the social and physical environment. They are the educators on this campus as much as anyone else in this institution. Though this toolkit is directed to students, we also hope that it will provide a pathway for students to work with the McGill administration and faculty on issues that concern them.
In creating this Toolkit, we completed research using academic and non-academic sources, while also conducting interviews and meetings with many McGill clubs, services, students, and faculty in order to gain further insight and knowledge into McGill’s unique context. Specifically, we conducted meetings and interviews with Campus Life and Engagement (CL&E); McGill’s Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction); Consent McGill; Healthy McGill; the Legal Information Clinic of McGill; Queer McGill; the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE); the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD); the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE); WalkSafe; Rez Project; the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice Studies (IGSF); the Black Students’ Network (BSN); the Director of the IGSF (Alanna Thain); and Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre.
Our Approach, Concepts, and Values
Taking a feminist approach to the concept of the “right to the city” means not only acknowledging that all individuals have an equal right to public space but that individuals experience space differently owing to specific dimensions of their identity. We are thus advocating for the universal accessibility of social and physical spaces on the McGill campus, while understanding the need for platforms that champion certain individual rights in order to reach a point where the campus will be accessible to all. When thinking about the “right to campus” we have had to think about who currently has full rights to the space of the downtown McGill campus. The struggles relating to an individual’s access to campus reveal the hierarchies that structure access to public space. This means acknowledging that “public space” is not neutral and that many individuals are excluded from public space owing to their experiences of oppressions and/or fear. Therefore, in working to create public spaces that are equitable and inclusive, we seek solutions that are based in altering the environment to accommodate and be accessible to those who aren’t commonly accounted for. We place the responsibility in fostering equitable and inclusive environments in the hands of all those in the McGill community-- including students, administration, and the academic staff. Through this work, we aim to create a campus where everyone has the right to exist within a space and feel comfortable and included within it, as well as participate in the decision-making in the creation of this space.