UTMSU’s Ministry of Social Justice and Equity hosted the second annual DisOrientation Week, offering students a chance to learn how to get involved on campus.

DisOrientation Week, held from October 1 to 5, featured a series of workshops for students intended to improve their public speaking skills, teach them to express their opinions through art, and show them how they can contribute to UTM’s growing student community. The week-long event also tackled issues such as student poverty and accessibility.

“A lot of people come to school and only think about classes and homework, so we are just trying to show students how much more they can do,” said Yasmine Youssef, UTMSU’s VP equity, in an interview.

DisOrientation Week was created by Youssef and Ruba El-Kadri in 2011. It was originally known as eXpression Against Oppression Week, and was designed to empower students to speak out against social injustice and inequality on campus.

This year, the focus was on how students can use all kinds of means, including visual art, spoken word, and social media, to reach out to other students on issues of social justice.

“When you are given basic communications skills, you are always more confident,” said Youssef.

DisOrientation Week kicked off on Monday, October 1 with a media workshop, followed by a screening of Misrepresentation, a film that analyzes how the media represents females in today’s society. On Wednesday, students took part in a public speaking workshop and the “UTM Is Ours” panel discussion. Thursday featured an American Sign Language workshop,  an “Art of Resistance” panel, and an open mic night featuring 15 student performers. On Friday, the events concluded with a trip to Mississauga’s Eden Community Food Bank, a ”Bringing Down the Wall” seminar, and a “Breaking Barriers” community café. The café, hosted by Zoë Adesina, UTMSU’s anti-racism coordinator, allowed students to openly participate in discussions about stereotyping.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Equity also organized an anonymous food drive for UTMSU’s food bank, which offers donated food items to struggling students.  The food bank becomes especially useful towards the end of the year, when meal plan funds run low.

“We want students to leave inspired,” said Adesina. “We’re hoping we are able to guide them to start their own campus initiatives now, anything from a think tank, or a non-profit organization.”

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