‘Radical, decolonial, and anti-oppressive’: UBC Social Justice Centre plans alternative orientation booklet

For this year’s Imagine Day, the UBC Social Justice Centre (SJC) plans to revamp an old project to create and distribute an alternative orientation booklet that is “radical, decolonial, and anti-oppressive.”

The “Resisting the University: An Alternative Orientation Booklet” aims to highlight voices of marginalized communities while discussing issues relevant to UBC and Vancouver, according to SJC Co-Chair Gabby Doebeli. It will also include information on dozens of campus groups that answered the SJC’s open call for submissions or were contacted directly by the centre.

This is also not the first time there has been an alternative orientation booklet on campus. The Knoll — the predecessor of The Talon, a student-run publication associated with the SJC — published “The People’s Guide to UBC” in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Doebeli said the SJC was inspired to restart the project after a recent conversation with The Knoll’s old members.

“We’re hoping to kind of kickstart a tradition … bring back an old tradition and trying to revive and reinvigorate it,” she said.

According to Doebeli, the orientation booklet will have a major focus on amplifying Indigenous voices, which includes listing Musqueam place names, a definition of UBC as a colonial institution and a discussion of what it means to be on unceded Musqueam territory.

“From my memory of my own orientation, there was no mention of Musqueam territory or the relationship to the land that we’re on,” she said.

“And I think centering the fact that we’re on unceded musqueam territory and what that means … for myself, for example as a settler, and for the majority of non-Indigenous students [at UBC] is really important.”

It will also discuss campus issues like UBC’s tuition increases and the AMS’s politics. For instance, along with an introduction about the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) provided by SASC itself, the SJC will include an article breaking down the the AMS’s now-reversed decision to cut SASC’s support service to maintain awareness of the issue.

“[It’s] basically a re-cap of the UBC Resource Groups Collaborative’s open letter,” said SJC Co-Chair Jacob Fischer-Schmidt.

“We want to make sure this incident and this crisis doesn’t just fade into the background and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Another aim is to increase awareness about and “build relationships of trust and solidarity between ... some really cool clubs on campus,” Doebeli noted. She confirmed that 22 groups had made contributions mainly in the form of short introductions on their services or mandates.

The UBC Women’s Centre, a fellow resource group, is one of the booklet’s contributors. The centre’s Co-President Niki Najm-Abadi hopes the booklet will raise awareness about the resource groups and activist organizations on campus in general.

“The resource groups are really hard to find physically, we’re kind of hidden behind six different doors, so it’s good that the broader UBC community gets to know how to find us if they do need resources,” Najm-Abadi said.

“There’s a history of silencing of marginalized groups, so this is like a good taking up of power and being like ‘No, we’re here.’”

Outside of UBC, the booklet will discuss some of Vancouver’s hot button topics including the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, the housing crisis and the upcoming municipal election.

While acknowledging that the project has been challenging in terms of coordination, Doebeli said that the booklet will be distributed both at the SJC’s booth on Imagine Day and online through The Talon. The centre expects to print 1000 copies.

“[Orientation] is the first contact students have with the new year … and it can mean so much ... and give a strong sense of welcome and community and it has a lot of potential,” added Fischer-Schmidt.

“I hope that [the book] helps at least one but hopefully more students find their space on campus ... or find the places they can go to help make that space.”