LGBT hosts candlelight vigil on Manchester Field

Lydia Coutré

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The vigil was hosted by PRIDE! Kent and the Alpha Psi Chapter of Delta Lambda Phi.

“We can’t bring your kids back, but we’re not going to let them die in vain,” said Sam Windler, graduate student and member of the Delta Lambda Phi national board of directors, in an earlier interview.

The vigil fell on National Coming Out Day and the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, who was the victim of a hate crime.

“This event is a way for us to say ‘it’s time for us to stand up and say that bullying is wrong,’” said Christopher Clevenger, an electronic media management major and secretary for Delta Lambda Phi. “It’s time for us to speak out against this and actually do something about it.”

The speakers at the vigil were Alfreda Brown, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Max Blachman, regional representative for the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown; Eric Van Sant, vice chairman of the National Board of Directors of Delta Lambda Phi and David Pattee, the reverend from United Church of Christ.

Although the event was sparked by bullying and its results in the LGBTQ community, the vigil is for bullying of any nature, Windler said.

“I know that most people are against it, but sometimes you really just gotta get up and yell about it,” Windler said.

The vigil is named “It Gets Better” after a YouTube project started in September by Dan Savage, a Seattle-based sex columnist. The campaign, also in response to the recent suicides in the LGBT community, encourages people to share their experiences via video to give others hope for the future.

Jonas Birch, a freshman theater major and president of Delta Lambda Phi, said Kent State is “pretty accepting.”

“As a campus as a whole, the campus is great,” Birch said. “I mean even President Lefton was here tonight for it. This is a great campus to be on if you’re gay in my opinion.”

But Kent is not immune to harassment and bulling issues, which Alfreda Brown, vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said she hopes to raise awareness about harassment.

“I’m glad it didn’t happen here, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t,” Brown said in an earlier interview.

PRIDE! President Trae Ruscin agreed.

“Regardless of how LGBTQ friendly we are, it can happen because there are always those people who really like to make other people feel like they’re worthless,” he said.

Ruscin said he felt that although harassment does happen on campus, Kent State is less tolerant of it and it’s “not quite as bad as it is in other places.”

Brian Hellwig, coordinator of Residential Safety & Security, said complaints of LGBTQ bullying and harassment are “very rare” if they get them.

Windler said he doesn’t see LGBTQ harassment as a major issue on campus.

“I think that the LGBTQ community deals with as much harassment as just Joe Schmoe walking down the street to be honest with you,” Windler said.

Gregorio Beltran, a freshman architecture major and PRIDE! member, said most of the campus is accepting, but the Student Recreation and Wellness Center is “one place where sometimes it’s not so accepting.”

“I went with two friends today who are both gay and we were there and we got looks, maybe a few whispers,” Beltran said in an earlier interview.

“It’s one thing that shies me away from the rec.”

Senior Zoology major Kristine Herrick said he prefers to be called Kris, and would appreciate it if professors remembered that.

“It might seem like a little thing just to throw that last syllable on there — Kristine — but you know, when I’m putting myself out there trying to represent as a male, like thanks for throwing my name in my face every 10 minutes when you call on me,” said Herrick.

Although Herrick said this is “kind of a minor thing,” it would help make his experience at Kent State more accepting.

Windler said although there are times where he has felt “less than welcome” on campus, that’s not the whole case.

“Essentially sometimes shit happens,” Windler said. “But when it comes down to it, I don’t know where I would have been better off.”

Contact Lydia Coutré at [email protected].