The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

Letter: State of GLBTQ movement on campus

The University of Richmond has begun to take steps toward fostering a more inclusive community for sexual and gender minorities on campus. Frustrated by our persistent marginalization and invisibility on campus, organizations representing sexual and gender minorities have begun to reinvigorate themselves and, in the process, have cultivated campus-wide enthusiasm for their efforts.

Beginning last spring, the Office of Common Ground hosted the Q-Summit to help revitalize a sense of community among sexual and gender minorities at the university. The message resulting from the summit was clear -- members of the LGBTQI community want a more solid framework of support. As a result, the Community Board for Gender and Sexual Diversity was created in September 2008. Composed of three faculty members, three staff members and three students, the elected board drafted a mission statement during the fall and began making plans to support the queer movement on campus. Once a month, the board holds an open meeting for all interested people; this will continue into the coming academic year.

Before the year even began, a committee selected Kenji Yoshino's book "Covering" as the text for this year's "One Book, One Campus" event. The Chaplaincy hosted weekly book discussions during the fall and the spring wherein our campus started an open dialogue about issues of gender identity, sexual orientation and covering. During the spring, Kenji Yoshino came to campus to speak about his book. Around this same time, the Chaplaincy held multiple programs about faith and sexual identity.

The Center for Civic Engagement held brown bag discussions in the Think Tank on a weekly basis, where race, gender and sexual orientation were hot topics of discussion and debate. The dean of Richmond College sent a letter to Richmond College students, connecting homophobia with language in conjunction with a poster campaign on the same topic that canvassed the Richmond College residence halls.

After the Allies Institute retreat in January, one group enthusiastically chose social justice for sexual minorities as its project to bring back to campus and assisted in the revival of the LGBTQI student groups on campus. Queer students and their allies began meeting to make plans to resuscitate Icebreakers, the anonymous support group for LGBTQI students on campus, as well as the Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity, which promotes queer activism on campus. In addition, a social network for queer students and their allies grew out of a social network on Ning. URQueer now brings queer students and their allies -- faculty, staff and students -- together in an online forum. The group is continuing to expand to include more and more members of the campus community.

Dan Petty and David Larter wrote several articles in The Collegian that brought the queer movement on campus further out of the closet by interviewing queer students involved in the movement, tagging along on a trip to Godfrey's on "College Night" and sparking a campus-wide conversation about what it means to be queer at Richmond. Richmond trustee Guy A. Ross wrote a letter encouraging closeted people to come out, demonstrating there is upper-level support for the queer movement on campus.

The anonymous "Letter from the Closet" in The Collegian made a significant impact on campus -- most notably in the discussion that unfolded on The Collegian online forum. The ensuing dialogue prompted RC student and football player, Kevin Grayson, with the help of RC Dean Joe Boehman, to organize a forum wherein people voiced their opinions about the queer movement on campus.

Toward the end of the semester, Multicultural Affairs screened the MTV film "Pedro." The Allies group that chose social justice for sexual minorities as its project to bring back to campus worked tirelessly to make the Day of Silence a huge success on campus -- hosting a "Break the Silence" party in Millhiser Gym on April 17.

In conjunction with this event, these students also brought the "Gay? Fine by me." T-shirt campaign to campus to promote the Day of Silence. The need for the campus to support this event was demonstrated by the April 9 Collegian article that promoted the view that homosexuality needed to be treated despite the resolution that was passed by the American Psychological Association that questions the ethics, efficacy and benefits of conversion therapy.

The queer movement on campus has made great strides this year, and we hope that it continues to grow as we move into the future. Although we have come a long way, there is still much work to be done. The Community Board for Gender and Sexual Diversity would like to thank everyone who worked to make this year such a great starting place, as we move toward a more inclusive future at Richmond.

For equality,

John Frank

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Jepson School of Leadership Studies '09

Andy Gurka

Area coordinator, RC Dean's Office

Glyn Hughes

(ex officio) Director, Common Ground

Ronnie Kingsley

Associate Professor, biology

Kim Marie McGoldrick

Professor, economics

Emily Miller

Jepson School of Leadership Studies '10

Lee Shuber

T.C. Williams School of Law '10

Johann Steigmeir

Assistant professor, theatre and dance

Marti Tomlin

Facility/Special Event manager for the Weinstein Center for Recreation & Wellness

Valerie Wallen

Director of Organizational Learning &

Development, Human Resource Services

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