July 15th, 2024

Pride kicks off at U of L with flag raising ceremony

By Lethbridge Herald on June 19, 2024.

University president Digvir Jayas and Martha Mathurin-Moe, vice-provost equity, diversity and inclusion, are joined by supporters in capping off the pride ceremonies by raising a rainbow flag on Tuesday morning at the University of Lethbridge. Herald photo by Justin Sibbet

Justin Sibbet – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Once again, a rainbow Pride flag flies freely at the University of Lethbridge, but this year added a bit of a twist to the ceremony.

Kurt Schlachter, a recent recipient of an honorary degree with the U of L, co-created a new award, complete with funding, for students at the school. This year was the first in which the award was handed out. Jason VandenHoek, Schlachter’s partner, was the other co-creator of the award.

Designed to give students an incentive for advancing “equity and inclusion”, the VandenHoek Schlachter Pride Award offers $2,000 to the winning recipient. This year, Jasper Mars Jesson was given the honour.

He says it means a lot to receive it, especially because it indicates his dedication has not gone unnoticed. 

“I feel like my work over the past year has definitely been… it was already valid, but more so validated (now),” said Jesson. 

He says the money from the award will go a long way in supporting his further education at the university.

“I’m really grateful to have the financial support that comes along with the award, as well as the prestige that comes with doing the kind of advocacy work that I’ve done with Q-Space.”

Q-Space is a student-run organization designed to give people on campus a place to go and meet with like-minded individuals. This, Jesson says, is important because there is a lot of push back against the LGBT community.

“I see a lot of social media hate,” said Jesson. 

“It is a frequent spot of hate, especially over the last year when we ran a levy campaign to become a formally funded group.”

To show support for LGBT students, the university raised a Pride flag on Tuesday, which Martha Mathurin-Moe, vice-provost equity, diversity and inclusion at the U of L says is more important than ever.

“Raising the flag is really a symbol of the university’s commitment to our 2SLGBTQI community,” said Mathurin-Moe.

Even as pride events have become commonplace in Lethbridge, Mathurin-Moe says there are some who disagree with it.

“The broader social landscape is very polarizing, there are people who are for, people who are against it. But I think it’s because there is a lack of understanding and a lack of information.”

Still, she says the university is dedicated to ensuring all students, no matter their stance on Pride, are given a voice.

“I am a believer we are all humans, we may be different, but we all have a journey and our voices do need to matter in the spaces we are in. We commit to doing that through education, through awareness, but also creating safe spaces.” 

For her personally, Mathurin-Moe says she hopes to help move the world in a more welcoming way.

“If I can have a small piece in creating a better tomorrow, I’m committed to doing that for our students, faculty and staff. I was super hopeful today to see so much of our community on campus and I think I’m still hopeful, I’m stubbornly hopeful that there will be a better tomorrow.”

The University of Lethbridge Students’ Union will be taking part in the Pride parade  Saturday as well.

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