When I joined the SA team as Vice-President External, I was familiar with student governance and knew my list of goals had to be impactful rather than lengthy. I hoped for a larger social media presence to make students aware and included with day-to-day activities; priority to student vendors and entertainers; and a more inclusive campus culture.
The first was relatively easy to tackle as we revised our social media strategy to networking with students rather than selling to them. We posted work-in progress and polled students on our stories. I curated the Social Media Ambassadors based off similar programs that paid students each semester to post Instagram stories of daily life on campus. Lastly, we added all the student Executives to our social media to let each post what they felt relevant to students. This also left little to no gaps in what was happening on campus.
Student vendors/entertainers understood our culture and played off students. They were respectful and inclusive. They also knew our space, the sufficient equipment and what students wanted to hear. Student entertainers were an excellent addition to events as student vendors usually have student friends making for a built-in audience. We had DJs, musicians, rappers, and more! It was perfect and we hope any students wanting to expand their business or offer services come see us.
Lastly was a more inclusive campus. Our spaces have always been safer spaces for all students. What we wanted to do was a make a public statement of our commitment for safe spaces and inclusion where every student knew without a doubt that they were welcome and could be themselves.
Our major public statement of the year was our Pride Crosswalk outside the main campus doors. This was unveiled September 24th to the public with lots of media coverage for us to share our message of inclusion. We were aware that many did not fall in line with our beliefs that everyone deserves the same respect and it was vandalized, twice. Our commitment to students has not wavered under public opinion. We promised students we will paint the crosswalk as many times as it is vandalized and we will continue to celebrate and stand behind the message of the crosswalk.
The crosswalk means many things to students on campus. Crosswalks were created as a sign of safety from traffic and pride adopted the symbol of safety and they signify safe places and most of all your right of way.
Crosswalks are intersections between drivers and pedestrians. If you’ve ever stood on the side of the road and felt the wind whip past you when a truck raced by, you know the difference between power and vulnerability. It’s easy for drivers, insulated in their vehicles, to breeze past pedestrians — but there are fleshy, vulnerable people to watch out for. Similarly, it’s easy for people who don’t struggle with discrimination due to sexuality, gender, or race to ignore the reality of people who do.
A crosswalk is a reminder to those of us with power to look out for the vulnerable people, to respect their right of way, and to let them pass unharmed. Rainbow crosswalks do all that, while also letting members of a particularly vulnerable population know that their greater community supports them as they move forward on their paths.
While the controversy has died down in our community, our drive for a more inclusive campus has heightened. We are cultural change leaders. Every. Single. Student. We have the power to change what is happening in our community and change the conversation on campus. We can take something like vandalism and make it educational. Take something dividing and bring people together with it to protect each other.
The conversation continues on campus. I represented the students at a two day audit lead by the Center for Sexuality. The Students’ Association led the path for cultural change on campus with awareness, disclaimers, safe spaces, and even symbols handed out to allies. We need to celebrate this! And if you are a student know that you are seen. If you are an ally, student you need to know that you make a difference!
For better representation of LGBTQ2S+ we have created a Task Force that meets to find gaps, create events, and provide feedback to the SA and College. You are seen and you need to be heard. If you are interested in joining the efforts to make a more inclusive campus, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!