UAF celebrates Ally Week

Elika Roohi/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
October 16, 2012

This week, the Student Activities Office and Gay-Straight Alliance are working together to host Ally Week at UAF. Many campuses across the United States are bringing awareness to harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the importance of support from their allies through events during this week.

The week will kick-off with a talk by Pete Pinney, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Rural, Community and Native Education at UAF.  Pinney has a long history with LGBT issues on campus.  He’s been involved with the UAF Gay-Straight Alliance since 1998.  In the fall of 2010, during the “It Gets Better” initiative,”  Pinney posted a video encouraging LGBT students and telling the tale of his own coming out.  He moved to Alaska before telling his parents, who were still in California.

One of the highlights of the week is the “Safe Space Training” on Thursday afternoon.  During the seminar, students will learn about how to make campus a safe place for LGBT people to feel comfortable and accepted.  Juan Cruz, an SAO student worker is helping organize the event.  According to Cruz, it’s not that UAF isn’t a safe campus, but there are always things we can learn.

Ally Week is a unique event, in that it focuses on people who don’t necessarily define themselves as LGBT, but still support the community by standing up for LGBT people who are being bullied and harassed.  There are seminars on how to become an ally, what it means and why it’s import.  Concentrating on ways others can support LGBT people is an important and essential part of shaping this issue in a positive way.

Several years ago, I was studying different supreme court cases on gay rights issues for a class.  A comment one of the other students in my class made stuck with me since then.  She said that when reading through these cases and learning about the events surrounding them, she was consistently surprised by how recently these cases had occurred. Issues surrounding gay rights are still being discussed and decided right now.  We can still have a profound impact on the direction they go.

Which is the reason why UAF spending a week to open this discussion is important.  Slowly, our campus has been gaining more ground in protecting the rights of LGBT people.  In spring 2011, the UA Board of Regents added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination clause.  Although  it took them a little while to get to that point and the clause still doesn’t expressly protect the rights of transgender people, every step forward helps.

All week at The Pub, there will be note cards out where people can write positive statements.  Starting on Friday night, the notecards will be put on display.  Events for Ally Week happen every day until Saturday night, the week will end with the Campus Couture Benefit Show at The Pub.  Schedules can be found online and on posters around campus.

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