Institute to address homophobia at KSU

Adam Griffiths

Play scheduled for Week of Welcome

Artistic director Norma Bowles wants to give Kent State students a chance to speak out about LGBT issues.

From April 19 to 26, she will bring her “Fringe Benefits” institute to campus in an effort to promote awareness of LGBT issues at Kent State.

“She is going to discover what the problems are and concerns on campus regarding homophobia,” said Daniel Nadon, co-chair for the LGBT studies minor. “Through the stories that people are telling, she’s going to take (them), improvise them and create a structure for it.”

“Fringe Benefits” will be a five-part series of three-hour sessions that will work to produce a play, which will be performed during next year’s Week of Welcome and First Year Experience programming.

The Workshop

Nadon said 20 to 30 people are required to participate in the workshop, which is funded by a grant through Liberty Foundation, a Los Angeles-based organization that provides grants and programming to fight poverty and injustice.

Bowles came to campus last fall to present a small series of workshops at the Kent and Trumbull campuses and, upon leaving, realized she needed a host for the last in her current series of presentations, Nadon said.

Bowles said she was excited to be working with a diverse group of students and faculty, both straight and LGBT.

“Institute participants share stories about incidents of discrimination they’ve witnessed at Kent,” Bowles said, in an e-mail. “Then they work together to dramatize some of those stories through a process involving brainstorming, discussion, theatrical improvisations and collaborative editing.”

Homophobia at Kent State

Nadon said the institute’s main goal is to break the silence surrounding LGBT issues at Kent State.

“I feel it’s something people shouldn’t be ignorant about,” said Jennifer Goerke, junior psychology major. “People are people.”

Even though Goerke said she feels homophobia isn’t as much of a problem at Kent State as it is on other campuses, the institute is a good way to get people to think about different things.

“Since Ohio doesn’t have any hate crime laws, it’s something pushing us closer to appreciate and accept different people,” she said.

Sophomore sociology and philosophy major Amy Lennon, who is enrolled in Nadon’s Introduction to LGBT Studies course with Goerke this semester, agreed.

“I think there is room for improvement,” Lennon said. “There’s always places to bring insight as to homosexuality at Kent. I’d really like to be a part of that.”

Week of Welcome

“I hear of instances of real problems sometimes resulting in violence, sometimes in people feeling shunned and incapable of coming out,” Nadon said, “and I don’t think we have a terribly welcoming environment.”

Michael Lillie, assistant director for the Center of Student Involvement, said the goal of First Year Experience programming is “to get programming from across the campus that is educational and will benefit the students.”

“Students are coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, and there’s a wide variety of diversity on campus,” Lillie said. “Our goal is to get students introduced to the campus and acclimated to a new environment.”

Nadon agreed.

“It’s about putting it out there to First Year Experience people to say, ‘Watch the use of language, the use of stereotypes that are drilled in,'” Nadon said.

If a dialogue is created as soon as students get to campus, he said it might be a way to “make the next generation of students’ experiences, who are LGBT, better.”

Nadon said students interested in participating in the “Fringe Benefits” institute should contact him by Monday at [email protected] or Kristine Mathews at [email protected]

Contact news correspondent Adam Griffiths at [email protected].