by Shannon Gleba & Jasmine Allen, Copy Editor & Contributor
On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center hosted their annual event titled “Love in the Dark,” with a new focus on love during the time of COVID-19. The event was held virtually and had an attendance of around 20 participants, with four moderators from the LWGRC including faculty members and alumni of Manhattan College.
MC alum, Jo-Ann Mullooly, who was the graduate assistant in the center for the past two academic years, brought the idea for Love in the Dark to campus around two years ago. Similar events are held at many other colleges and gives students an anonymous space to ask questions relating to relationships and sex.
Typically the event is held in the LWGRC space, with the lights off and students holding candles to invoke a feeling of anonymity and comfort. However, it had to be conducted differently this year as a result of social distancing guidelines.
But, this new format was not any trouble to Mullooly, and she felt the event ran smoothly despite being on Google Meet.
“I loved the virtual format,” Mullooly said. “While I missed getting squished together and super cozy in the LWGRC together like what typically happened in pre-COVID Love in the Dark, this format also worked nicely because we were safe, we featured a panel of hosts for the evening, and students could type their questions quickly and, as always, anonymously … the panel worked well because we each have such varied life experiences that have led us to really learn and understand identity, sexuality, love, and relationships with ourselves and others.”
Three other panelists on the call included Jordan Pascoe, associate professor of philosophy, Gabrielle Kasper ‘20, and Rachel Cirelli, director of career development.
Pascoe, like all of the panelists, was very open to sharing advice that rooted from her own experiences.
“When we were organizing for the LWGRC, one of the things we knew from the beginning was that we wanted an event like this,” Pascoe said. “A space where students could bring their questions and we could have supportive, open conversations around love, intimacy, vulnerability, and sexuality.”
There was a variety of different aged women in attendance, and Pascoe emphasized how important it is that younger and older women have these conversations.
“Creating spaces where we learn to do this talking — to ask questions, set boundaries, practice listening to ourselves and others — is a crucial element to building a culture of sexual and relationship justice, one that respects the dignity of persons,” Pascoe said.
During the call that lasted over an hour and a half, the panelists covered many different topics and questions that were asked in an anonymous Google Form. These topics ranged from maintaining long-distance relationships during the pandemic to having alone time when quarantining in a full house.
While the panelists gave advice to the students in the event, Cirelli felt like she also learned a lot from the students and the conversations that occurred as well.
“I want the students to know that we are so lucky to have them in our lives because they force us to learn and grow more than if we did not have them in our lives,” Cirelli said. “I do believe that any event when we can create a situation where everyone feels they are on the same level is important because we all learn a lot. I just want to thank the students because [they] make me better.”
Love in the Dark was a starting off point for the LWGRC this semester, and they will continue to hold important conversations that will help students cope during the pandemic.
“Events like these are crucial during the time of COVID, and I cannot emphasize that enough,” Mullooly said. “For some, 2020 has been incredibly lonely, disappointing, and sad. For others, it has been a time to reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones and to prioritize what is important to us. Community-building events on campus are always beneficial, but now more than ever, I believe all students should participate in campus events, in particular the LWGRC events, in order to form connections, make friendships, and create community in order to get through these unusual times together.”