SUNY New Paltz held its first orientation for its LGBTQ Allies program on Wednesday, Sept. 25. The program is designed to offer “support, communication and dialogue on issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identities.”
We at The New Paltz Oracle commend the volunteers behind the program, Marcia Tucci and Emma Hempel for their commitment to making a comprehensive introduction to issues that are often difficult to comprehend, let alone teach.
We’re happy to hear that the orientation clarified the different situations in which students can, or cannot, be effective helpers. We believe it’s important that programs supporting oppressed or marginalized groups acknowledge issues of privilege, especially if they are meant to educate.
We commend the college for taking the initiative to make our campus a safer, healthier environment for students regardless of gender, sex or orientation.
We believe the Allies program is in line with our greater goal of creating a progressive, inclusive and informed campus community. However, we believe the creation of this resource is only one step on the road to reaching this goal.
As the program is currently supported solely through the efforts of volunteers, it’s in a fragile infancy. In its early stages, we should put forth every effort to promote its growth. Though students and staff are slowly but surely learning the proper way to become “allies,” with the 20 who attended the orientation at the forefront, the number is still too small to create the safe and educated climate we’re striving for.
At its worst, our society is riddled with intolerant and painfully ignorant parties who fail to be compassionate, least of all informed. The only way to battle such toxic attitudes is through empathetic, educated conversations. The tools and information provided by programs like this, as well as the discourse initiated, are too vital too limit to such a small number of people.
If we have any hope of combating the harmful, negative attitudes, misinformation and stereotypes, we need to invest time and earnest, thoughtful energy into this program and others like it.
For the future, we hope the college will continue to make this program’s success a high priority. Being a catalyst for social change shouldn’t be a part-time, volunteer-only job. We hope to see an LGTBQ resource center established in an official capacity by the college to ensure the necessary time, energy and passion is allotted to this much-needed student resource. Other schools within the SUNY system including Oneonta, Albany and Buffalo have such accommodations and we believe it would show true commitment to the longevity of the program and, most of all, to the the safety and well-being of our students.
We also hope to see future collaborations between various departments and programs to bring frank, intersectional discussions to our student body. We hope students will be receptive and seek opportunities to better understand the part they can play in these conversations.
Lastly, we hope our campus remains committed to social change. We should be examples, advocates and most of all, allies, in every capacity we can.