The Queer Student Union (QSU) met Monday, March 3, to discuss growing concerns within the organization that had been brought to the attention of the QSU E-board by club members and affiliates.
The majority of concerns stemmed from comments made on the SUNY New Paltz community QSU Facebook group where certain language, terminology and “trigger warnings” – tags put before an external link post that caution content some members may find upsetting – had members being “called out” for perceived ignorance and offense.
Other attendees argued that some members were unfamiliar with what words were cause for offense and that the comment reaction to their improper usage was “overly critical.” Proponents said that adhering to such rigid “political correctness” overshadowed other facets of the club, to the point where some members avoided expressing themselves in fear of being accused as ignorant.
Opponents of this sentiment regarded the calling out and political correctness as both educational and necessary within the organization, said that being called out for using upsetting language is done so with good reason – specifically understanding why the language is upsetting to certain individuals.
One member commented on the subject, and said that confronting someone for upsetting language can be constructive.
“The person can realize that ‘Hey, we live in a society where we are indoctrinated to think problematically, to say mean things,’” the member said. “Part of this club is resisting what we’ve been brainwashed to think and realizing that what we say isn’t always perfect, but it’s not about being perfect — it’s about recognizing each others’ humanity.”
The QSU E-board proposed separating the club from the QSU community Facebook group to start a QSU page strictly dedicated to QSU events and voting, noting that the group page had been an issue for some time and that many of the inflammatory comments came from persons who did not attend QSU meetings.
“That group is a terrible representation of the club,” QSU E-board member Max Jansen said. “If you’ve ever been scared of it, I’ve been scared of it.”
Another issue raised by club members was the passive alienation of heterosexual “allies” of QSU. Some members cited that the negative disposition of hetero-support prevalent in the organization resulted in a decrease in LGBTQ education among outsiders and furthered LGBTQ groups’ standing as a minority voice.
QSU E-board member Adriana Dulmage said the club had been more welcoming to hetero allies in past semesters but became stigmatized after an ally formerly in the club made a series of tokenizing and insensitive comments.
“Not being completely open-arms with [allies] I think makes [queer members] feel comfortable because so many other spaces are welcoming to [heterosexuals],” Dulmage said. “But at the same time I do understand how allies are important and that saying ‘no’ to allies may mean a [sexual orientation] questioning person who currently identifies as straight feels uncomfortable coming to QSU as an ally when really they’re in the closet.”
Dulmage explained that for this reason, the organization’s mission statement defined the club as a queer student union and not a gay-straight alliance, like in some high schools.
Other members agreed, saying that the comfort of queer students should be prioritized and it was not QSU’s function to educate heterosexuals, but rather each other.
The QSU E-board said ideas were in the works to satisfy both parties.
QSU E-board member Dana Hershkowitz ended the discussion.
“It’s close to impossible for us to be aware of every issue,” Hershkowitz said. “I think our communication leaves something to be desired. We’ve got some work to do, but we acknowledge that. We’re going to do better.”