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LGBTQ life on campus

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LGBTQ life on campus

USA Spectrum President Jamie Robinson at Spectrum’s HallowQueen event.

USA Spectrum President Jamie Robinson at Spectrum’s HallowQueen event.

Briana Cunningham

USA Spectrum President Jamie Robinson at Spectrum’s HallowQueen event.

Briana Cunningham

Briana Cunningham

USA Spectrum President Jamie Robinson at Spectrum’s HallowQueen event.

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The University of South Alabama offers several resources for LGBTQ students, such as student led organizations, faculty training and university initiatives to be more inclusive.

Dr. Michael Mitchell, vice president of students affairs and dean of students, believes USA offers a safe and inclusive environment to its LGBTQ students.

USA student and Spectrum treasurer Ryan Prater said she has never experienced prejudice on campus due to her sexuality, but added she had apprehension in expressing her sexuality due to living in the south.

However, Prater reported being harassed for being affectionate with another woman in downtown Mobile.

“… I have been harassed before,” Prater said. “It’s not a fun experience, but it’s not as bad as it could be.”

Spectrum, a student organization for LGBTQ life on campus, hopes to create solidarity among the LGBTQ community and provide an extended family to its members, according Prater.

Mitchell said he believes Spectrum plays a crucial part at USA and helps integrate LGBTQ students into USA.

“When I first joined [Spectrum] I didn’t know anybody at USA, but through this club I made a lot of friends,” Spectrum PR Coordinator Josh Horshok said. “By being involved with the club more, I felt more involved with USA.”

Prater said Spectrum stresses the importance of allies, someone who does not identify as LGBTQ but actively supports the LGBTQ community.

“Some people think this is the gay agenda and only the gays are perpetuating this,” Prater said. “I think it’s more about how people should be able to love the people they want to love, and I think our straight allies in our group understand that.”

Mitchell said providing programs that help important dialogue take place is paramount.

“When Spectrum wants to put on a program, they’re able to come to SGA and receive funding for that program and so that programing, I think, opens up conversation, it opens up opportunities for people to connect., Mitchell said. “It opens up the opportunity for people to really understand what this community is and how the LGBTQ community is a part of this community.”

USA’s Committee of Diversity and Inclusion does not currently have a subgroup assigned to address LGBTQ issues on campus, but would appoint one if ever needed according to Mitchell.

“Those issues have not been brought directly to the committee as something the university community, either students, faculty or staff would like the committee to work on,” Mitchell said.

USA also revamped its Diversity and Inclusion Plan in 2017.

“The University recognizes and values the contributions made by African-American and other under-represented populations and desires to make the University an even more attractive and inclusive place for people of all races, ethnicities, faiths and cultures to study and work in a supportive, diverse community,” the USA website states.

USA’s Safe Zone Policy has helped create a safer environment for LGBTQ students, according to Mitchell.

USA’s website states the Safe Zone Program’s goal is to “create a positive environment, free of discrimination, prejudice and harassment for LGBTQ students so that they can succeed on a personal and academic level during their years at USA.”

“I think it helps students to know that there are places and people that they can go and not worry about being judged, not worry about being discriminated against and can really talk and share their story,” Mitchell said.

USA also holds a reception for incoming LGBTQ students to find resources and other LGBTQ community members during its Week of Welcome.

Looking ahead, Mitchell said the Diversity and Inclusion Plan, open dialogue and continued Safe Zone training will keep USA a diverse, safe and inclusive experience for the LGBTQ community.

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