On Monday, Jun. 01, 2020, St. Jerome’s University (SJU) raised an inclusive rainbow flag on its campus for the first time in history showing their support for the LGBTQ community.
“We came to this decision as a community process. We started in the fall and asked the students’ union what are some of the challenges that are reaching out to the broader student population. And they indicated that one of the things was that the flag not flying was a barrier to reaching out to LBGTQ+ communities,” Dr. Scott Kline, the interim president and vice-chancellor of SJU, said.
Kline said that SJU had received feedback from its students’ union, leadership teams, faculty, and various other student interest groups stating that not flying the flag was sending the wrong message to its students and making them feel unwelcomed. Kline emphasized that the inclusion of the LGBTQ is a necessary step for SJU.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we don’t want to support people who are struggling with who they are, with their identity, and who they want to become,” Kline said.
“So we don’t want to turn them away, in fact, we want to welcome them and journey with them in figuring out who they are, and who they want to become.”
Kline acknowledges that, while the decision was long overdue, they were able to take the step in the right direction and said that SJU is welcome for all students.
“Every office in the student affairs wing is already flying small pride flags. So informally you don’t have to walk very far down our hallways to realize that there is overwhelming support,” Kline said.
“This is a good step, [but] we got work still to do and we will work with the LGBTQ community and others to support students and our staff and faculty.”
Despite the overwhelming support from SJU to fly the pride flag, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) decided to not fly any flag this month. They issued an apology in a statement.
“After receiving feedback from the broader community – but, more importantly, also from some of our students — it is clear that the WCDSB’s decision to fly a provincially developed image on a flag during June, to mark Pride month, which was intended to send a message of unity and support, has instead led to division,”John P. Shewchuk, Chief Managing Officer of WCDSB, said.
“Out of sincere respect for all viewpoints shared, the school board will not fly any flag during Pride month. The proposed flag will be displayed in school foyers throughout the 2020-21 school year, as the school board consults with the LGBTQ community on the next steps leading to Pride Month 2021.”
Spectrum, an organization that provides a safe space for Waterloo Region’s LGBTQ community, issued an open letter addressing the WCDSB actions.
“Choosing not to fly any flag is choosing to erase queer people and queer culture in your schools,” said Luke Runstedler, Spectrum board member.
The WCDSB says that it will continue to work with the LGBTQ community ahead of Pride in 2021.