Campus safety audits to provide students with safer and more accessible spaces
By Brandy Bond, Staff Writer
Lakehead University’s Office of Human Rights and Equity is conducting a series of safety audits this month with the mission of improving accessibility and safety on both the Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses. The audit will consist of the touring of various campuses spaces in order to assess their physical features, such as lighting, signage and access, as well as their non-physical features, such as whether the space feels welcoming or uncomfortable.
The Office of Human Rights and Equity is looking for student, faculty and staff volunteers to participate in the audit, and is particularly members of equity-seeking groups such as women, gender minorities, racialized minorities, religious minorities, Indigenous peoples, individuals with exceptionalities and LGBTQ2 individuals. According to the Lakehead University website, “safety audits are premised on the notion that users of a space are often the experts on the problems and solutions for creating protective and inclusive environments. Thus, it is key to have an audit group that is reflective of the diversity in our user population.”
Dreeni Geer, the Director of Human Rights and Equity told The Argus that the main goal of the audit is to create a “welcoming environment.” Additionally, when asked about how the audit will be conducted, she explained that it will involve a series of tools, including “having users of the space get together and do a walk about of the area with a check list, along with a safety audit leader who can support discussion and make sure that people are heard and that their opinions are taken down.” Geer also says that after each of the spaces have been evaluated and thoughts and opinions from students have been noted, the session will conclude with a debriefing led by the audit leaders.
Safety audits are not new to universities across Canada, according to Geer, however, this is the first time that Lakehead University has conducted a safety audit across the entire campus. Recently, an audit of the Bora Laskin Education Building was conducted, where students and audit leaders assessed various aspects of the building, such as washrooms and accessibility options. Geer says she hopes to replicate this process across both campuses to make improvements where they are needed.
Geer hopes the safety audit will allow the university to hear directly from students about their specific safety concerns and needs. This will allow the school to improve in a meaningful way at meeting the needs of its students and ensuring that students feel safe on their campus. Results of the audit are expected to be available in March, at which point the University executive will decide how to act on the recommendations.
The audits will take place during the day and will last approximately two hours. If you would like to participate, visit the Lakehead University website or contact Amna Siddiqui at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.