“Sowing the Seeds of Equality” at Texas A&M
September 14, 2011 by Candace Gingrich, Associate Director, Youth and Campus Engagement Program
“Whoop!” It may not be something you hear during a typical panel discussion on a college campus, but, as any Aggie will tell you, there is nothing typical about Texas A&M.
Monday evening we had our first off-bus event in College Station as part of the HRC’s Road to Equality bus tour. Designed as a listening forum, the panel, “Sowing the Seeds of Equality: A Discussion of the Campus Climate for LGBT Aggies” was an opportunity to talk about the experiences of LGBT Aggies, the ways the school is succeeding when it comes to supporting LGBT people, and to identify areas for improvement.
Everyone’s experiences are different, and the variety of folks on the panel provided a wide range of viewpoints. There was an even mix of three current students (two of which are officers for GLBT Aggies); a teacher from the Sociology department; Mike Holloman, member of the A&M Class of ’94 and current member of HRC’s Board of Directors; and Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally. Hudson is not an Aggie, but his representation as a heterosexual ally and a competing athlete was crucial.
The nearly two-hour discussion covered topics ranging from individual experiences of support, ideas about what the school administration could be doing to improve the climate, resources and tips for LGBT students who are new to A&M and the very clear value of the GLBT Resource Center on campus. (The center’s director, Lowell Kane, is a rockstar here.)
One of the most interesting topics of the evening focused on the amazing traditions that exist at A&M and what they mean to each student. A number of people expressed the desire to incorporate the ideas of respect for LGBT Aggies into the definition of what it means to be an Aggie. We also learned of some great programs at A&M including Aggie Ally, a program formed in 1993 for students and staff who are interested in showing support for the LGBT Aggie community and undergo Safe Space training.
The panel was a great way to kick-off our visit to College Station and could not have happened without the GLBT Aggies or the support of Aggie Mike Holloman, currently the honorary co-chair (along with Aggie & HRC staffer Kirk Rice) of the LGBT Aggie Alumni Group, which is as yet to be officially formed.
It was good to see the mix of current students and former students interact at the reception following the panel. The love for Aggieland doesn’t ever seem to fade and everyone is committed to making it a welcome place for LGBT students.
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