MSVU group seeks to grow compassion on campus

Compassion Circles a step toward joining an international movement

"What is compassion?" was the question posed to MSVU students as part of Mount CARES' Compassion Circles. (Photo: Kayte Brewster)
“What is compassion?” was the question posed to MSVU students as part of Mount CARES’ Compassion Circles. (Photo: Kayte Brewster)

Students of different backgrounds and beliefs gathered together at Mount Saint Vincent University last week united in their desire to see the university become a more compassionate place.

The Compassion Circles were held in the Aboriginal Student Centre as part of efforts to make MSVU a certified compassionate school, bringing together students and organizers in open discussion.

“(The Aboriginal Student Centre) is actually our newest facility and we thought it would be an awesome idea to bring students here, so that they can experience an indigenous atmosphere that the Mount is compassionate enough to offer,” says Nik Phillips, one of the event’s organizers.

The student-driven Mount CARES initiative organized the circles as part of its effort to see the Mount recognized nationally as a compassionate university under the Charter for Compassion, a document compiled.

Held on Friday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the circles gathered students and organizers together to discuss individuals’ ideas regarding what compassion is and how to make the university a more compassionate place.

The morning circle hosted a small group of a dozen or so participants as they talked freely about what compassion is and what improvements they would like to see at the Mount. The ideas brought up ranged from the sensation of a hug to understanding that one cannot always fully understand what those around them are experiencing.

Mount CARES also posted notices in high-traffic areas of campus asking students to note down what they think compassion is.

“We want to be a leader for the East Coast of Canada to be able to state that we are a part ofthis charter and that we’re promoting this,” says Allison McBride, a student organizer. “Hopefully what will happen is that we can expand it outwards and have the community involved.”

Mount CARES is relatively new on campus.

“We had our initial meeting last spring,” says Michelle Greencorn, a learning strategist with MSVU’s Disability Services. “Over the summer Kim (MacAulay) and I worked on a grant. It really only started up this fall when we got it going.”

Kim MacAulay is part of the group, and also a Halifax-area community-based initiative, Waves of Compassion.

“They idea is that you involve all sectors of society (in becoming compassionate),” says MacAulay. She added that becoming a certified compassionate university doesn’t mean that there will be no room for improvement.

“It’s proclaiming to a commitment.”

Mount CARES is funded in part by a grant from the Inspirit Foundation, a group that seeks a more inclusive Canada, which allows them to run their initiative through the end of May.