SpectrUM hosts first statewide conference

Last weekend, SpectrUM hosted the first annual Florida Collegiate Pride Coalition Student Conference, the first statewide conference to address gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer issues [GLBTQ]. Twelve organizations from universities across the state, including UF, UCF and FIU, participated in the conference.

“This conference will help us greatly because we will be able to join together, get more people behind what we do and have more of a force on campus,” Dara Solomon, SpectrUM public relations chair, said.

The conference, themed “Connections,” encouraged GLBTQ students to have a unified and powerful voice on campus. Events included a series of workshops on a wide range of issues, from gay history to the controversial gay marriage issue. Each workshop served as a forum for discussion in addition to the topic being presented by guest lecturers.

Solomon hopes gays will be motivated through the workshops to become involved in non-violent protests on campus for issues like gay marriage.

One workshop discussed how the University, specifically the residence halls, should be more accommodating to gay students.

Chris Fisher, resident of Mahoney-Pearson, was satisfied because he had “a gay-friendly roommate,” while others felt that RAs and students living in the dorms should have special sensitivity training towards GLBTQ students to ensure a stable living environment.

It was proposed that the University should have gender-neutral bathrooms. A student from Eckerd College spoke up about discussing this with the administration at his campus. Cate Dundon, new vice president of SpectrUM, discussed the organization’s goal of creating non-discrimination policies for gender-expression for transgender students with the University’s administration.

Lecturers included Jennifer Uleman, assistant professor of philosophy at UM, and Nick Sakurai, director of LGBT Students at the U.S. Student Association.

Sakurai hosted a lecture on the Day of Silence, described as “a day when GLBTQ students take a vow of silence representing how society silences their voices.” According to the SpectrUM website, the day was set aside to memorialize those who were killed because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. SpectrUM hopes to raise campus awareness on a wide range of gay issues through the Day of Silence and other organized events this upcoming fall semester.

The conference ended with keynote speakers Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz, a lesbian couple who made a documentary showcasing their coming-out process and the reactions from their Jewish community and families.

SpectrUM hopes to make connections with other student groups on campus such as feminist groups and organizations of students of color by the “connecting issues” of ensuring equal access to education and reducing hate-crimes.

For more information, visit www.miami.edu/studorgs/spectrum.

Vivek Kalra can be contacted at v.kalra@umiami.edu.