The students’ union centres are going online, with a growing community of 1,178 students currently on their new server.
The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union new Discord server has many of the same services previously offered by USSU centres to U of S undergraduates. The project is a collaboration between the USSU executive committee and the centres, with Pride Centre co-ordinator Rene Clarke, Women’s Centre co-ordinator Tasnim Jaisee and vice-president of student affairs Jory McKay as the project leads.
The USSU created the Discord server to help students cope with remote learning. There, students can join and interact with each other or seek help as if they were at the centres themselves. The USSU hopes it to be an empowering place for the student body, says Clarke.
“How can we still provide services to students? How can we still connect with students? How can we get students to connect with each other?” Clarke said. “This is unprecedented territory but we’re doing the absolute best that we can.”
With the goal of making the server a safe space for students, the USSU has made it possible for people to use it anonymously. However, the union does keep a record of the users and everyone must go through a verification process to ensure the privacy and safety of all students.
“We understand that some people may not feel comfortable with having their identity explicitly expressed,” Clarke said. “We know that they are a student and we know that they are accessing the service as a student and that’s all that matters.”
Because the Discord server keeps everyone anonymous, Clarke says that the USSU will be acting as moderators because “bullying or hate speech is not allowed.”
Along with the USSU centre co-ordinators, McKay stressed that the executive team is also there for students. He hopes that USSU can continue to provide important supports for undergraduates.
“We hope that somebody can at any time ask a question to the executive or USSU Centre organizers and we’ll be able to help find somebody to help answer that question just like we would in person,” McKay said.
Using online servers is a learning experience for the students’ union, says Clarke. The group is hoping that, as this project develops, students’ feedback will help them improve their online programs for the future.
“Because this is still very new and we’re still learning new things every day . . . we’re always looking for suggestions, always looking for things that we can add to make it better, more engaging,” Clarke said. “So if anybody has any suggestions, we are always taking them.”
Even after the university buildings reopen, Jaisee says that the Discord server may become a permanent service for students.
“Overall, we’ve received very positive feedback from students and the USSU team,” Jaisee said. “This is one of those projects [in which] we’ve gotten super close to the students.”
The USSU centres have events in the works including, but not limited to, movie nights, pride events and queer women’s nights. For up to date information on the centres’ programming and to join their Discord channels visit Centres – U of S Students’ Union.
Graphic: Anh Phan | Design Editor