The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Student gay pride group protests on-campus conference

The parking lot across from the Jepson Alumni Center was speckled with gay pride and anti-prejudice paraphernalia on Aug. 25, as the Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity led two protests opposing The Family Foundation of Virginia's use of university facilities.

The Family Foundation's mission is to strengthen the family through accurate research and education, prompting civic activism and affecting public policy outcomes. The foundation's policy stance is based on the principles of traditional marriage, the right to life, religious liberty and limited government involvement in citizens' lives.

The Foundation was using the alumni center for a board of directors retreat.

Members of the SASD said that the foundation's presence on campus had countered The Richmond Promise of an authentic culture of inclusivity, especially because of its stance against gay marriage. Thad Williamson, assistant professor of leadership studies, said he had become an ally of the GLBTQ community through his best friends.

"It's important that the university community and the city and the state know that there is a gay and lesbian community here," Williamson said. "They're real people who have families, valued partnerships and children, and it's a form of love just as wonderful as any other."

Williamson also said he wished the members of the foundation had come out to talk to the protesters, but Victoria Cobb, president of the Foundation and a Westhampton College '00 alumna, said: "We were glad to have them. We welcome anyone's free expression on important issues."

Members of the SASD said they would like the administration to establish a review process of groups using campus facilities to ensure that they hold common values to those Richmond has promised to uphold.

"Those who expect service from our employees should not discriminate on any of the bases that the university bans discrimination," philosophy professor Ladelle McWhorter said.

"A true college university that is trying to teach people how to think, not what to think, and is trying to foster inclusiveness, ought to allow all members of the community, regardless of their opinions, to use their facilities," Cobb said.

She said that it had been a pleasure to use the campus for all that it offers, and that the Foundation plans to be back.

About 30 students, faculty and staff attended the protests held at 7:30 a.m. and noon on Tuesday. Jon Henry, president of the SASD, was pleased with the turnout.

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"It was pretty good to get students up and out of their dorms before 7 a.m.," he said. "It was heartening to know students on campus actually care."

The protesters held signs across the street from the entrance to the Jepson Alumni Center. The signs read proclamations such as: "The Richmond Promise is hate free," "I am not a second class citizen" and "Tolerance is the best foundation."

SASD plans to increase its visibility on campus with continued chalking in the forum as well as speaker series, film screenings and theatrical presentations, including a production of Queer Monologues during the fall semester, Henry said. He encouraged monologue submissions to SASDUR@gmail.com.

Contact staff writer Avril Lighty at avril.lighty@richmond.edu

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