The Arts Tunnel is always an exciting and bustling place on campus, allowing for student groups and other organizations to promote their activities or products. This includes the awareness weeks put on by the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, which are both incredibly effective and important for students.
Awareness weeks are frequent on our campus and are often done through the USSU campus centres. These weeks have specific themes and corresponding events. The most recent example would be the Feb. 6-10 Sex Week orchestrated by the Pride Centre, Women’s Centre and Help Centre, which promoted healthy sexuality and acceptance of sexual diversity.
Sex Week not only had a booth that gave out information and contraceptives but also held events including a sex toy party and the Sexibition drag show. This year has also seen Ally Week and Who Needs Feminism Week put on by the Pride Centre and Women’s Centre.
What all of these awareness weeks have in common is that they are all attempting to provide knowledge and exposure to a specific topic or issue. This is extraordinarily important because it fosters acceptance towards “taboo” issues, creates dialog and benefits the USSU.
These awareness weeks can also help the greater community of the university and sometimes communities off campus. We can see this in the Women’s Centre’s menstrual products drive — which will be stationed in the Arts Tunnel from Feb. 13-17 — where the donations collected will be distributed throughout both AIDS Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan communities.
The events that go along with awareness weeks can fundraise for the centres through admissions to poetry nights, the drag shows and the various other events they put on. They also serve to bring in new volunteers to the centres. These in tandem allow them to put on more events and to provide services to the student body.
The Who Needs Feminism Week was a prime example of an awareness week that positively created dialogue, as it featured a white board campaign in which people could stop and write why they personally feel they need feminism. The results included many powerful messages surrounding issues such as the wage gap and gender roles.
The awareness weeks, more often than not, take place in the Arts Tunnel, which sees 22,000 visitors every single day, giving each topic a great deal of exposure.
Although criticisms have been made that more people walk past the booths than stop at them, or that they only stop for the free swag, I would argue that the booths and events are still important and serve a purpose.
Regardless if people are just stopping for a witty pin or to grab an adult flip book, there’s still a level of engagement which often leads to some sort of communication around the specific topic of the week. It’s also impossible to have everyone stop at a table throughout the day, but there is typically still a high engagement level from my experience. Even if only a few new people stop for information or attend an event, I see it as a victory because these interactions tend to lead to an opening of someone’s mind to a new perspective.
The awareness weeks are not limited to social issues through the centres, either. The USSU itself has put on events that encourage students to get engaged in the political process and held the Usask Votes campaign, which gave out information on how to vote.
Awareness weeks are an entertaining way in which to give out important information to a large amount of people. They are incredibly important to have because of the dialogue it creates and allows exposure to topics that people may either be uncomfortable with or not know about. Overall, the awareness weeks help create a more open campus.
Graphic: University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union / Supplied