LGBTQ allies gather for night of ‘love and togetherness’

Wren Murphy, Diversity and Inclusion Reporter

This Valentine’s Day, members of the LGBTQ faculty group celebrated, as Kas Williams puts it, “love and togetherness” by talking about issues facing LGBTQ students, faculty and staff.

Williams, the interim director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access joined members of 10 campus and community groups and the Brookings Police Department to create connections between allies and community members.

The event was not widely-publicized because of concerns about the faculty members’ privacy, according to Williams. The posters were only put up in specific residence halls and sent out in certain email lists.

“It was very smart,” said Brianna Anderson, a community assistant. “There are certain views here that not everyone on campus respects.”

Spanish and linguistics instructor Jeremy Rud said “solidarity and allyship” were the main priorities of the event.

“We want to come up with ways to make campus a better place for everyone,” said Rud, one of the event’s organizers. “I like that we have the space to discuss issues that affect us all on campus and in the state legislature.”

Danny Gissing and Dré Mayrose, two hall directors, decided to form the group with the help of former diversity director Nathan Ziegler. After Ziegler left, they began working with current diversity director Williams to get the group started. The group had its first meeting last spring and started small, but it continues to grow.

Gissing said they wanted to help provide programs for other LGBTQ staff and faculty who faced negative experiences on- and off-campus.

“I went to the doctors and they said, ‘We can fix you with electroshock therapy,’” Gissing said.

Community assistant Cade Bruna attended the event to set an example for his residents.

“No matter if you’re an ally or not, this [type of event] keeps you well-rounded and broadens your horizons,” Bruna said.

The Brookings Police Department’s LGBTQ police liaisons, Assistant Capt. Derrick Powers and Lt. Marci Gebers attended because they want to get more involved with campus events.

The Brookings Police Department is working to be proactive rather than reactive to prevent violence in the community, according to Powers.

“It’s important for people to know that we’re here if they’re hesitant to report a crime,” Gebers said. “We’re going to take any reports of a hate crime seriously.”

SDSU students come from all over the world and the liaisons said that some have had negative experiences with the police.

“We want to build trust, to help people understand that we’re here,” Powers said. “We’re here to help them if they have an issue.”