Written by Meg Susong
On the afternoon of Nov. 4, before everyone hits thier televisions for election night, ALLIES will be hosting the first Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered (GLBT) salon in the Marshall Field Ballrooms from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The salon, open to all members of the campus – students, staff and faculty – is designed to function as a conversation between faculty and students, discussing the question, “What is it like to be GLBT or GLBT-friendly on this campus?”
The first half hour of the salon will be a student-centered portion. Only students will be invited to speak, in order to allow them to voice their thoughts before a discussion occurs between them and the staff. The idea is to give students the space to speak in front of both their peers and their professors.
Anyone who wishes to speak is invited to do so, but to keep their thoughts to a point and relatively brief.
As a side note, the conversations will remain confidential, as to respect both student and faculty privacy, and to create a space that will allow for an open discussion.
The remaining portion of the salon will be open to both faculty and students wishing to voice their thoughts relating to the question of GLBT issues on campus and what it is like to be GLBT and allied on campus.
The session is not meant to be a time to complain about faculty, but to discuss and expand on how the faculty can help bridge the gap between theory and life.
“Students feel like they are isolated,” Alex Lannon, junior and president of ALLIES, said “the idea behind the salon is that it is a campus-wide discussion. Forgetting specifics, it is simply people talking about issues as SU. The ultimate goal behind the salon was to find a way to take what is being taught in classrooms and apply to activism, to translate what’s going on in classrooms. The hope is that the salon can assist in bridging the disconnect between what we are learning and what is being said on the street.”
The idea for such a salon originated from Lannon and sophomore Daniel Quentin, who sent out the initial email to all the faculty as well as staff on campus. The email asked about faculty interest in such an event, and the response turned out to be very positive.
Many members of both the faculty and staff responded to the inquiry, such as Dr. Leese and the Chaplain, as well as professors from the feminist studies and English departments.
Another inspiration for the GLBT salon is the feminist studies salon (which is primarily for majors and minors). The style will be the same: a roundtable discussion that does not place anyone at the head.
Instead, the plan is to have everyone in a circle, where the first go-around will ask for only students to give their comments and thoughts. After everyone who desired to has given their initial thoughts, the floor will be opened to begin the student-faculty interchange.
Because the salon is open to anyone, one objective is to show people that many issues are not separate of one another. Particularly, the salon is a place for majors who are GLBT but are not majoring in something that touches on GLBT issues in their courses.
“We don’t want it to be simply a feminist studies or humanities major thing,” Lannon noted. “The idea is for people to realize that you don’t have to be in Gay and Lesbian Film to talk about these issues.”
Touching off of that, the salon is expect to become a regular event. The issues would likely remain centered around GLBT, however it could possibly expand to include diversity issues and feminist issues. The salon is meant to encourage connecting issues, and to bring discourses together.
Dr. Allison Kafer, a professor of feminist atudies, said “the impulse is right, to make people realize that all these issues are interconnected, and can not be easily separated from one another.”
ALLIES is Southwestern’s queer and queer-friendly organization, housed in the Gender Awareness Center (GAC), located on the third floor of McCombs next to the Megaphone office. It meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in Koruva.
The organization initiated and sponsored the salon in the hopes of creating a positive atmosphere for both queer and queer-friendly students and faculty.
“We’ve heard feedback that ALLIES is only for gay and lesbian-identified people, which isn’t true,” Quentin said.
In fact, ALLIES has joined with the Student Peace Alliance to co-sponsor the “Trans Day of Remembrance” on Nov. 20, which will include a panel of speaker and later that evening, a candlelight vigil. As well, several progressive organizations, including SEAK, ALLIES, Student Peace Alliance, Theater for Social Justice, SESA, NORML and EBONY, have joined together to celebrate their actions in an after-Halloween Haloween bash on Nov. 1st in the Howry Center beginning at 10:30p.m.
Overall, the GLBT salon will be judged a success by how well it performs at becoming a place for faculty and students to connect. A liberal arts college is often questioned in its ability to create actual change, and the intent is to both broaden the spectrum of thought on queer issues and to challenge faculty and students to connect with one another on important issues.