The Allies group on campus has been on hiatus since the end of September. The group was moved under the Center for Student Diversity (CSD) at the beginning of this year in order to take on more programming and focus more on diversity.
Sean Munar has been the president of Allies for the last two years and has seen its major changes, including lack of student interest. “We were enthusiastic about programming because of the new support of CSD, but there doesn’t seem to be enough interest from the rest of campus.”
There was discussion of the Allies going into a hiatus period at their first and only meeting of the year, and, according to Munar, the club can resume when it “finds more interest and brings a larger member base.”
The notion of the Allies going into hiatus was approved by the Director of the Center of Student Diversity, Tirrany Thurmond, and their advisor, Father Jim Donohue. Donohue has been the advisor for Allies for years and has seen a hiatus happen before. Thurmond at first wanted to empower the group and help it with programming and rebranding. This was turned down by Munar due to the lack of participation. Donohue is hoping to hold an interest meeting for students next semester to see how the club can be serving the needs of students.
The club’s move from Campus Ministry to CSD took place after students rallied together in order to get the move achieved. Thurmond notes that the students wanted to be under an office that focused on diversity.
Munar was not met with anger from group members for the hiatus, but the only way they would have known about it being a possibility is showing up to the meeting.
It was decided about 3-4 weeks into the school year that Allies would go into hiatus; their initial meetings were planned and people were notified, but “the physical interest of showing up was not there,” Munar stated.
When asked where the students that rallied together to move the group under CSD went, Thurmond noted that she wondered the same thing. “It’s hard being a member of the LGBTQ+ community on a Catholic campus. Students are concerned with their safety and well-being. It is not easy to be out.”
During the hiatus, the club will not be holding any programming or working on any leadership training under CSD, according to Thurmond.
The need on campus for a club like Allies is shown in various statistics from the 2015 Student Campus Climate Survey. The survey showed that out of the 510 students that responded 44 reported being LGBTQ, 58% of the LGBTQ students reported resentment based on their identity, 35% reported harassment at least once and 59% reported feeling isolated based on their identity.
Dean of Students, Ken McVearry, noted that, “an affinity group for our LGBT community provides a key component for supporting our inclusive values of respect and dignity for all.”
Donohue commented that, “A Catholic university is a place where all people would expect to be treated with respect because of the inherent dignity of all people being created in the image of God and because Jesus’ ministry was one of inclusion and compassion for all people. It is important that we hear the voices of all students to ensure that we are carrying out this part of our Catholic mission well. If we are not, we need to make sure that we understand where we need to grow and improve in order to meet these high, but important, standards.”
Ariana Aragón is the former Public Relations and Event Coordinator for Allies, which is currently inactive. She is also pansexual.
Aragón’s story began when she came out in high school. She was a member of her high school’s active gay student alliance club, and she was looking forward to finding a similar safe place in college to be able to express her sexuality comfortably. When she arrived at Mount St. Mary’s, though, she found herself driven further back into the closet than ever before.
Aragón became involved with Allies, which was at that time attached to the Office of Campus Ministry. Aragón described the club at first as “a real-life Tinder” where students were more interested in meeting other LGBT members to “hook-up” with. Over the course of her first year, Aragón helped make Allies a stand-alone organization with the hope that the club would shift its focus to bringing educational programs on gender and sexuality to the campus.
However, Aragón resigned from her position in Allies, thanks in part to a growing frustration with the lack of enthusiasm for education from her fellow Allies leaders and a constant put-down by anonymous “higher-ups” in the university.
Last year, Allies and the Office of Social Justice were planning a program on gender and sexuality to highlight services provided to people who identify as a gender or sexuality outside of what society deems normal. According to Aragón, the program was knocked down for an unknown reason by an unknown person. Another incident, unrelated to Allies but directly related to the LGBT community, occurred this year involved a flier for a “Courageous Conversation” on the underrepresentation of LGBT members in comic books.
The flier was then changed for an unknown reason to replace “LGBT” with the word “people” despite the word “underrepresentation” being rainbow-colored and directly referencing the LGBT community. Both of these incidents, according to Aragón, showcase how the university is unwilling to engage in open conversations about LGBT issues. “This campus makes people afraid to gather in a group when they are a part of the LGBT community,” Aragón explained.
Sloane Robinson, a sophomore, considered joining Allies during her first year, but wanted to focus on her studies and rugby. The only thing she knew about the club was that it supported the LGBT community, but she did not know what they did or what their goal was. Robinson does believe the Mount needs an LGBT-related club to bring more awareness and more support for the community.
Robinson thinks people will be more willing to join an LGBT club if they knew more about it. “Everyone needs to know that the Mount is a safe space, and there needs to be more attention brought to the club and what they are trying to do.”
There is also discussion of the Allies changing their name to “Spectrum” which is a more inclusive title. This would include all people in varying sexualities and genders.
“If you’re interested in being a part of or restarting Allies, talk to the CSD director or assistant director and they will help you. Opportunities for expanded programming is available, and students have the vehicle ready – they just have to start it up,” stated Munar.