After year of poor attendance, Pride! Kent back in action

Emily Clark

Chalking in front of the Student Center advertises a Pride! Kent meeting.

Credit: Ben Breier

Pride! Kent has something to be proud of this semester: a huge turnout for its first two meetings. After poor attendance created a problem for the group in the spring, it plans to combat low attendance with better advertising, early freshmen involvement and lots of activities planned throughout the year.

Christopher Taylor, sophomore nursing major and president of Pride!, estimated membership last year at around 30. The group’s first meeting this year brought a headcount of 153 people.

“I thought that was a stretch for this campus,” Taylor said. “I should have never underestimated Kent.”

Jen Weissman, senior political science major and former vice president of Pride!, saw attendance dwindle last year and blames lack of awareness and dull meetings.

“I think a lot of people didn’t know about it,” Weissman said. “People got bored or disenchanted and stopped coming.”

Students can look for Pride!’s messages all over campus. The group spends most of its advertising energy chalking the sidewalks to get the word out about its events.

Amanda Boyd, senior art education major, said Pride! will turn its attention to an electronic newsletter once the snow falls and chalking becomes impossible.

In order to keep members coming back, Boyd said Pride! plans to get younger students involved early-on.

“Getting them involved now and giving them a role in the community is what really makes them stick,” Boyd said.

Freshman nursing major Kristen Cooper said she came back for Pride!’s second meeting because the group paid attention to underclassmen.

“The leaders are really kind and try to involve you,” Cooper said.

Along with boosting interest in Pride! meetings, the group has kept busy this semester by organizing events. One of the biggest events will be Coming Out Week, which kicks off Oct. 16 and features six main events including a tie-dye T-shirt competition, gay homecoming, queers on ice and the Margaret Cho in the M.A.C. Center.

Boyd says she thinks events like these will keep members coming back.

“We have lots of events planned,” Boyd said. “Lots of stuff to keep people interested.”

In contrast with the fun activities Pride! will continue to organize, the group also will focus on being a stronger voice for the sexual minorities on campus.

Taylor said another reason attendance suffered last year was because members felt the group needed to take a more active role on campus issues such as partnership benefits and gay rights.

“One of our primary goals was to move away from a social agenda that made us look like just a fun group,” Taylor said. “We have to apply a lot of social pressure to create change.”

Pride! plans to achieve these goals by scheduling speakers to bring to campus, becoming more outspoken on gay rights and fighting for partnership benefits for faculty and staff.

“I have high hopes for them,” Weissman said. “They have made a really big effort lately to get more people active.”

Pride! holds meetings at 8:30 p.m. every Thursday in room 317 of the Student Center.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Emily Clark at [email protected].