‘Speak Your Piece’ forum discussion draws crowds

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Students, staff and faculty members voiced their concerns and support for Allegheny’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer community at the “Speak Your Piece” discussion hosted by the Committee on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment  yesterday.

The event was held in response to the nationwide increase in LGBTQ suicides and the results of the Campus Climate Survey. It was a collaborative effort between CDSH, Queers and Allies, Institutional Diversity, Equality and Access and Pride Alliance.     

Twenty-six of the attendees who filled the lecture room shared their personal opinions and experiences with the group, many of which dealt with stigmas,  feelings of exclusion and the need for involvement within the community. 
The event’s purpose was “to provide 30 minutes of solid listening,” said Rachel O’Brien, CDSH char and professor of biology, who hosted the discussion. CDSH will use the information gathered to better address the needs of the LGBTQ community on campus. 

Many students presented their experiences at Allegheny during the event.

“All my friends and many different staff members have been really supportive of me being a lesbian,” Chamberlin said. “The concerns that I would have is that other people feel a lot of pressure.”

Chief Diversity Officer Lawrence Potter expressed concern that students from different cultures might find it difficult to feel accepted in the LGBTQ community.

“For our populations on campus who are African American, our international population, it may be doubly difficult for them to come out,” he said.

The event also gave faculty members the chance to speak out about their experiences at Allegheny.

“I don’t get the opportunity to hear the faculty speak about this often or ever, so it was pretty eye-opening for me,” said Ellen Chamberlin, ’11, who attended the discussion. 

Many attendees hoped that such events will lead to better communication about the problems that face LGBTQ students and faculty on campus.

“I think it’s very important that we keep the conversations going,” said Associate Dean of Students for Wellness Education Jacquie Kondrot. 

Other attendees expressed frustration with the lack of visible progress in the community.

“I’m not looking to be a hero, I’m looking to be one of many to make some changes, but I don’t know what that change is,” said President of QnA Fiona Hensley, ’12. “I sort of feel like these conversations keep happening and we need so somehow identify the next step and that’s very hard to do.”

All of the issues that were  raised are valid  concerns, said Director of Diversity Affairs Cherjanet Lenzy. O’Brien encouraged those who didn’t speak during the discussion to e-mail her  about their concerns.