With spring comes change for the University of Richmond’s queer landscape.
The student-run LGBTQ+ organization Students Creating Opportunities, Pride and Equality rebranded itself as the LGBTQ+ Coalition this semester, and reoriented its structure and mission in the process.
Because the offices of Common Ground and LGBTQ Campus Life — which SCOPE is independent from — are creating more programming for LGBTQ+ students, SCOPE’s leaders decided it was better for them to shift their organization’s goal toward raising consciousness, and to do so around three focuses: education, community-building and activism, said sophomore Sam Burns, the LGBTQ+ Coalition’s community outreach chair.
These three focuses will serve as the LGBTQ+ Coalition’s goals for its new format, with the organization hosting three events every month. There will be one event for each mission, centered around that month's set theme.
For January, it was Ace Identities. For February, it is Queer Relations. The theme for March will be Queerness, Religion and Spirituality, followed by Pride for April.
Themes and corresponding events are announced on LGBTQ+ Coalition’s Instagram page.
Another reason for the rebranding was confusion over what SCOPE meant, Burns said. This confusion was another incentive to change to a more identifiable name.
Senior Canvas Brieva, a Coalition member and former SCOPE co-vice president, said they had thought that the name change would better help incoming students and current students alike find the organization and the space it offered.
Choosing the term "coalition" was an effort to express the group's diversity.
“I think that when we used the ‘coalition’ term, we really wanted to make sure that we also wanted to be very intentional to say that the LGBTQ community is made up of really diverse individuals,” Burns said. “There’s people who have different genders, different races, different ethnicities, different religious backgrounds, and that we really wanted to create a space where all types of people can come together."
Along with departing from SCOPE’s brand, the Coalition will also be departing from its meeting format. The Coalition will no longer have weekly meetings in a safe space where queer students can discuss experiences, vent frustrations and get to know one another on a routine basis.
In their place, a key focus will now be to make sure the three events every month are more thought-out and engaging, Burns said.
Burns said the Coalition’s leaders had hoped sharpening the organization’s focus would increase member retention and attract newcomers, including those who may not have their sexuality as a large part of their identity.
For particularly vulnerable parts of the community, Common Ground-affiliated groups such as Kaleidoscope — for those identifying as "transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and no label" — and Shades of Pride — for LGBTQ+ students of color — remain available, Burns said.
In addition, Lee Dyer, associate director for LGBTQ campus life, said his office would be willing to provide weekly meetings if students voiced a need for them.
But that does not mean the Coalition is abandoning having a platform where members can talk. The LGBTQ+ Coalition maintains a GroupMe and email list for club questions and announcements, but member discussions can now happen on its anonymous server created last semester on Discord, a voice and text chat platform.
The anonymity feature allowed for communication between students who were not yet comfortable with coming out and those who were, protecting students from social stigmas and potential safety concerns, Burns said. Anonymity also means allies and members could ask questions they may not be comfortable asking in person, she said.
“Allies are free to join, but they do have to be very mindful that this was a space that was created to make people feel comfortable,” Burns said.
Brieva said the Discord server made up for eliminating weekly meetings, in part because of the real-time, immediate support it enabled.
In the past, the organization has been criticized for not helping members reconcile being both a queer student and being present on UR’s campus, causing queer students to stick to their provided safe space but not engaging with the larger campus community. Burns said the Coalition was looking to organize an event with other student groups in April to educate and promote queer inclusivity in more campus spaces, although she added that planning for this event was still in its early stages.
Dyer said he believed the rebranding of SCOPE was a positive change.
"The change that they've made, I hope folks understand that it really shows how intentional they are about making sure that students are enjoying and really feeling a part of the LGBTQ community on campus,” Dyer said.
Contact news writer Arrman Kyaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.