By: Radhamely De Leon
Photo By: Will Dadario
On Wednesday November 7, CCNY’s organizational leaders met at The Towers for the Pride & Ally Living Society Club Leader Roundtable, co-chaired by Anthony Viola and Lily Fremaux. This roundtable gathered CCNY student leaders to convene and discuss what steps can be taken within their clubs to be more inclusive towards queer and gender non-conforming students in an effort to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks on campus.
Moderated by The Campus Editor in Chief Katie Herchenroeder, the roundtable discussion welcomed input from twenty campus organizations on how to create programming that is safe and inclusive for queer and gender nonconforming peers. As Alessandro Mercado, president of the Philippine-American Organization stated, this campus and its organizations are oftentimes the members’ “home away from home.”
Undergraduate Student Government President and USS Chair Haris Khan spoke with a keen commentary on why having this sort of discussion is necessary in today’s political climate. “We’re in that kind of transitional phase, I think, where we have to really advocate for ourselves and remember that our freedoms are not just granted,” Khan stated. “We say they are inalienable rights but, unfortunately, we have to fight for them every day to make sure they stay that way.”
This sentiment rang true as the conversation unfolded before the diverse medley of student leaders. While some questions spawned active discussion about the ways these clubs currently promote, and can continue promoting, inclusivity in their clubs, some questions hung in silence. It quickly became evident that conversations like these are not familiar to some, but the student leaders came open to discussing and learning more.
Having such a wide array of panelists was both a way to disseminate the information discussed at the roundtable, and also bring attention to the fact that City College’s LGBTQ+ community is wide and diverse and deserves a place in any one of these organizations. Presenting these topics and questions to such a vast group of student leaders certainly left an impact; one could already see the gears turning in their heads as questions were posed. How can these student leaders be beneficial to their peers?
Focus quickly shifted to how they, as individuals and campus leaders, can control the narrative within their clubs and avoid problematic situations from arising.
Jake Nill, president of the LGBT+ Open Alliance, and Katlyn Palmatier, Co-President of the Macaulay Queer Alliance, both provided useful context as to how their organizations commandeer the sensitive issues that can sometimes arise within student-led organizations. Notably, Palmatier’s method of ‘oops’ and ‘ouch’ is a resource that any club can effortlessly include in their general club discussions to facilitate open conversation on topics such as these. This strategy looks like members stating “Ouch” when something is either explicitly or inexplicitly hurtful to them or their diverse identities and, in turn, those who perpetuate microaggressions vocalizing “Oops” when consciously or subconsciously hurting a peer. it allows both room for victims of microaggressions to voice their discomfort and for perpetrators to apologize and discuss their forthcoming.
On the same accord, Mercado stated “I think language is a way of acceptance, and making others feel welcome,” as the Philippine-American Organization strives to facilitate safe spaces through “using more inclusive language and being mindful of potential microaggressions.”
Jasmin Salcedo of the Health and Wellness Services office also attended to raise awareness of what the department offers to students, including, but not limited to, informational trainings, one-on-one counseling sessions, and more.
Shelly Zou from Humanizing Homelessness recommended putting oneself out there as a resource for club members who are queer or gender non-conforming so that they know they have someone to turn to. Providing resources such as these is a great way to be a source of support in an otherwise troubling time.
At its close, student leaders were encouraged to commit to at least one of three initiatives posed by the Pride & Ally Living Society. These initiatives were designed to promote queer-friendly practices within school clubs, whether that be through queer and gender identity specific programming, charity initiatives, or trainings. There were also valuable suggestions made on all fronts about attainable ways clubs could promote programs for queer club members and students, such as setting up mentoring programs with LGBTQ+ professionals, informational programs and events for clubs to learn more, and coordinating club mixers with organizations such as the LGBT+ Open Alliance.
Most notably, these clubs were given the resources to build a better foundation for their organization’s legacy. Encouraging student leaders to begin utilizing these resources now is a key way for them to boost their LGBTQ+ involvement and promote the inclusion of CCNY’s queer and gender non-conforming peers in coming years. As Nill stated, quoting a friend, “The point of all of this is to facilitate community, and not force community.”