Campus Pride, the leading national organization for creating safer college environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, has a map on their website listing all of the known colleges with LGBT support groups, services and/or resources. Currently the list jumps from Lock Haven University to Manhattanville College, but soon Manhattan College may be joining the ranks.
“Obviously this is a group that’s important and necessary and needed, and I’m very, very excited that it’s getting off the ground,” Cory Blad, associate professor of sociology and supporter of the club said at the start of the meeting. “I’m here just to let you know and remind everybody in the room that there are people at this campus, particularly in faculty positions, who are very excited that this group is forming.”
Flyers around campus welcomed all to the first meeting for LGBT Friends and Allies, a new club on campus, founded by sophomore mechanical engineering major Ivan Rios. The meeting was held this past Wednesday, April 2 at 4 p.m. in the meditation room on the first floor of Horan Hall, with an attendance of about 25 students.
Blad has organized and run the SafeZone program on campus for the past few years. SafeZone is a group that faculty members can join to learn how to be more sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community on campus. “SafeZone” stickers around campus identify spots where students can feel welcome and safe if they need someone to talk to.
Rios made it clear that he wants the club to be strictly student run and Blad encouraged the idea.
“Whatever you decide to do, the only way this group is going to continue on to the future is if you are the ones in charge and in control,” Blad added.
Rios’ ideas for the club so far include awareness days for bullying, eating disorders, suicide, AIDS and the like, organizing events with other schools like Pace and NYU and taking part in national campaigns like NOH8, Ally Week and more.
“I also want to hold discussion groups to talk about whatever you like,” he said. “If you want to get something off of your chest or if you need advice, anything you want.”
He is also planning guest speakers for next semester and possible trips into Manhattan to visit the LGBT museum and the LGBT center.
“I think it’s great that there is a group organization here on campus,” Caitlin Philbrick, a junior who attended the meeting, said. “It will be a wonderful opportunity for students to gather and I’m excited to see what comes from the group these next few weeks.”
Though some students may not be aware, the LGBT club actually existed on campus before, but it was not particularly active.
“I wanted to help the LGBT community be more connected, to spread awareness around the campus,” Rios said of why he jumpstarted the group again. “I wanted it [the club] to be known. Before it was unknown, like you couldn’t find it…it did nothing before.”
Stephanie Brooks, a former Quadrangle writer and current Resident Director of Horan Hall, helped Rios with the process.
“Basically he just came to me and expressed interest in starting the club,” she explained. “We have plenty of resources on campus for anything that people want to do…so we kind of just went from there.
“He had an idea and I used the resources I had just to help him get funding and bounce off his ideas,” she continued. “So it really wasn’t difficult. I think a lot of times people let things hold them back, and all it took was one solid initiative for him to say ‘oh this is something that I want to do’ and we got it going, only in a matter of a couple of weeks.”
Next Friday is the National Day of Silence, a “student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools,” as it states on the event’s official website. Rios is planning a Breaking the Silence event for the club at the end of the day where students will be able to sing, dance, read poetry, freestyle or basically perform anything they wish.
After the positive turnout from the first meeting, Rios now plans to undergo the process of becoming an official club at MC.
“I wanted to see how many people were interested first, and then from here I’m going to go to Student Activities, see what they need, and go through all of the itty-bitty stuff I need to do,” he said. “I’m surprised by how many people came. I’m really happy. I thought there would only be like 10, 15 people.”
Students who are interested in joining the new club or would like to be added to the email list should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think that his club will bring awareness to the school community about LGBT youth,” sophomore Joseph Bowe, another meeting attendee, said. “I also think people can learn about other people’s experience with being gay or straight.”