The first meeting of the 2017-18 USC council unanimously passed a motion supporting transgender and non-binary students on campus with notable abstentions from the two voting members of the incoming executive.
The motion, moved by science councillor Frank Ye and seconded by social science councillor Jared Forman, was voted on in two parts.
The first asked that council task the incoming executive to investigate and develop a plan to create new and more accessible gender-neutral washrooms on campus and bring forth a recommendation for further action to the USC's advocacy standing committee during the Sept. 2017 meeting.
The motion also asked for a review of current USC services to provide "focused and life saving mental health support programs" and implement "new educational and outreach services with the purpose of combatting prejudice and stigmatization against transgender and non-binary students."
The second part of the motion proposed that the USC fly the Transgender Pride Flag on the Transgender Day of Remembrance — Nov. 20 — but was later amended to read that the USC advocate Western to fly the flag as USC does not own the flagpole.
The only abstentions from the motion came from USC president-elect Tobi Solebo, vice-president-elect Landon Tulk and King's councillor Hasan Mahfoud.
Solebo abstained from voting on the first part of the motion but voted in favour of the second, while Tulk abstained from voting on both sections of the motion. Mahfoud abstained from voting on the second part.
Of the councillors in attendance, 39 voted in favour of the first motion and 38 voted in favour of the second motion.
The rationale Solebo provided for not voting in favour of the first motion was that he wanted to leave it up to council to decide what they were being tasked to do.
"We're still excited to move forward with looking into the feasibility of this and hope to have something ready for [council]," he said.
When asked why he decided to vote in favour of the transgender Pride flag motion, Solebo said,"It's something that we've done before — during Pride Week — we have raised a Pride flag and it was stated during our meeting that the flagpole is owned by Western. But even if we are to advocate to the University and ask them to raise the flag, it's highly likely that they'll say yes and I still think that from a personal basis it is a good way to show that we are fighting for these marginalized students."
There was no explanation for why Tulk abstained from both parts of the motion.
"With the recent happenings on campus I felt like the transgender community and non-binary community really needed someone to speak up for them," councillor Ye said in an interview. "And to show them that you have a spot at this school and people at this school actually care about you."
Speaking in favour of the motions, USC president Eddy Avila said, "I think that it’s a huge kudos to the councillors who brought this up. I think that we very much so appreciated the consultations that we had prior to council to possibly be able to make the motion the best version possible."
While applauding Ye for bringing forward the motion, Solebo couldn't guarantee if the incoming executive would always abstain from voting on future motions when council tasked them to do something.
"We're still getting used to sitting on council floor and being voting and participating members," he said. "So looking forward to the future I think it would be irrational for us to predict how we are going to vote for the next meetings to come because it will be a case-by-case basis based on the motions put in front of us."
The original text of motion 5, prior to minor aforementioned amendments, is included below:
Support of Transgender and Non-Binary Students
Whereas, it is the interest of the USC to promote inclusivity and accessibility on campus;
Whereas, there continues to be a growing understanding of gender identity;
Whereas, transgender and non-binary students continue to be the target of discrimination and systemic oppression;
Whereas, many current single user and unisex washrooms on campus are meant to be used as wheelchair accessible or family washrooms;
Let it be resolved that, Council task the 2017/18 USC Executive with investigating and devising a plan to create new and more accessible gender neutral washrooms on campus and report to the Advocacy Standing Committee with a recommendation on future action at the September meeting.
Let it be further resolved that, the Student Experience Standing Committee will review and revise current USC services to provide focused and life saving mental health support programs for transgender and non-binary students, and present council with a plan at the September meeting.
Let it be further resolved that, the USC executive will work to devise a plan for implementing new educational and outreach services with the purpose of combatting prejudice and stigmatization against transgender and non-binary students, and report to the Student Experience Standing Committee with a recommendation on future action at the September meeting.
Let it be further resolved that, the USC fly the Transgender Pride Flag annually on November 20 in honour of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.