Mapping a safer campus: Dr. Mizzi explores 2SLGBTQQ+-friendly spaces
Post-secondary institutions everywhere are asking how they can improve equity, diversity and inclusion on campus — with tons of good ideas and mixed success — but Dr. Robert Mizzi says the most important leadership in this area is coming from students.
Mizzi, Canada Research Chair in Queer, Community and Diversity Education and associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, drew on the experiences of 2SLGBTQQ+ students in ground-breaking, SSHRC-funded research to re-imagine post-secondary campuses.
Mizzi asked research participants to share their experiences with different spaces around their campuses in Manitoba and how they would redesign them to be safe, inclusive and affirming for 2SLGBTQQ+ people. Participants were even given the chance to mark down changes on their campus map.
“Students are often left out of discussions about building design,” says Mizzi. “But students should be consulted because they are the ones who are using the space.”
Mizzi encourages institutions to ask questions about campus spaces: “How are resources allocated? How is space planned on campus? Are there multiple voices involved? Who is visible in this space? Who is invisible in this space? What is being communicated through space? Can anyone walk onto or log into campus and access the same opportunities equally?”
His research revealed important findings for the future of EDI on campuses and other designed spaces, including the importance of intersectionality and providing a more holistic affirmation of identity, especially when it comes to counselling services or student groups. The research also found that design should consider the people in the space and the power they hold can have great impact on inclusivity.
Mizzi says there is a need to level out power dynamics and increase diverse faculty and staff representation and that campuses require regular equity reviews. His research also found that institutions must provide virtual spaces for queer identities and calming spaces on campus where students can spend time in quiet reflection, away from hetero/cisnormative noise — according to Mizzi, these safe spaces can be life-saving mechanisms.
Dr. Mizzi shared his research and insights with the Royal Roads community as part of Pride celebrations.