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Action group formed to enhance climate for gender and sexual diversity at Queen’s

The Provost’s Action Group for Gender and Sexual Diversity (PAGGAS) will help close any gaps in support services and strengthen the campus environment for gender and sexual diversity.

Faculty members of the Faculty of Education take part in the 2019 Kingston Pride Parade.
Faculty, staff, and students from the Faculty of Education take part in the 2019 Kingston Pride Parade.

Last August, Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane committed to taking intentional steps towards addressing systematic racism and creating a more inclusive community. One of the stated goals of the Principal’s Declaration was to identify and eliminate gaps in supports and resources for 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty.

The Provost’s Action Group for Gender and Sexual Diversity (PAGGAS) has been launched to help close any gaps in support services and strengthen the campus environment for gender and sexual diversity at Queen’s. PAGGAS, a group of about 10 Queen’s community members with roles and affiliations relevant to the group’s theme, is co-chaired by Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) and Jean Pfleiderer, Associate Director, Human Rights Advisory Services/Gender and Sexual Diversity Coordinator.

“Our goal is to be a small, nimble group that serves as a conduit for connecting ideas to resources,” says Dr. Pfleiderer. “To encourage groups to collaborate and develop concrete plans and provide support as they carry them out.”

PAGGAS has outlined a Terms of Reference with a mandate to work closely with university leadership as well as relevant organizations to:

  • Listen to the voices of university community members, with particular attention to voices of queer, trans, and BIPOC community members. The action group will help identify, coordinate, and report on a broad range of initiatives that will create a more welcoming environment in such areas as virtual and physical spaces, training, orientation activities, services for students, curriculum, and extra-curricular programming. 
  • Provide feedback to institutional departments and units and groups seeking to develop or launch initiatives that improve the university climate for gender and sexual diversity.
  • Initiate specific initiatives or projects, based on advice and proposals received from various parts of the university community, by coordinating project team leadership, timelines, and funding and administrative support requirements.

One project that has come into focus is the state of washrooms at Queen’s in terms of gender and accessibility. PAGGAS’ inaugural initiative is a research project reviewing washroom and change room facilities with a view to advising the University on changes across its policy landscape, including but not limited to the existing Gender Neutral Washrooms Policy. Further details will be shared as this project moves forward.

“We're conducting a survey of best practices, research literature, and trade literature, as well as environmental scan of what other Ontario universities are doing in this area. From this work, we are going to be proposing signage, education, and design standards at Queen’s,” says Lee Airton, PAGGAS member and Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education.

Something else on the horizon is helping incoming, first-year students who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ find and be aware of resources available to them. This also includes integrating queer topics into orientation.

Matt D’Alessandro, Vice President, Arts & Science Undergraduate Society, believes reaching students as they enter Queen’s is critical and can change the course of a person’s academic endeavor in a positive way.

“It’s so important, honestly. It can make or break a student’s university experience,” D’Alessandro says. “I think if you come to Queens and don’t find a community that you fit into, it can be a huge barrier. We need to make sure all communities that students want to be a part of are highlighted at Queen’s, easy to find.”

In addition, there are at least eight other areas under consideration by the Action Group. Those projects include:

  • Gathering data regarding the experiences and needs of queer communities at Queen's.
  • Reviewing the availability of support services related to sexual and gender diversity.
  • Policy review including, but not limited to, name and gender collection and display in university records and review, expand, and enhance Queen’s community awareness of the Guidelines on Collecting Information About Sex and Gender at Queen's University.
  • Review of available training related to sexual and gender diversity.
  • Review of social support, such as funding needs for events on campus, as well as virtual and physical spaces.

“We hope to support and connect people across the University around these issues and help Queen’s have a better climate for gender and sexual diversity,” Dr. Pfleiderer says. “To that end, we invite individuals and groups to contact us with information about the work they are doing and ideas about the work that needs to be done.”

For more information on or to contact PAGGAS about a project email hrights@queensu.ca .