Shippensburg University united as “One Campus, Many Cultures” at Diversity Week 2020. The weeklong celebration kicked off by recognizing Gender and Sexuality Diversity.
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On Sunday, nearly 100 people gathered at the Hockey Rink to celebrate National Coming Out Day. Sophomore Jarel Wilson, sophomore Chantè Robison, and junior Tyler Hill, members of the Free To Be Me And You group with Multicultural Student Affairs, shared their stories at the socially-distanced event. Wilson bravely spoke about his femininity and the fear of not being accepted by the world. Robison described her struggles with acceptance in a narrative about her masculinity. Hill shared a meaningful piece stating, “LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. Who you choose to love is your human right. Who you make love to is your human right. Who you are friends or associated with is your human right. To live your truth is your human right.”
The National Coming Out Day event on Sunday concluded with an emotional and powerful balloon release paying tribute to members of the LGBTQ+ community who have passed on. Diane Jefferson, director of the MSA, stated that the theme for the event was “love is in the air”. Attendees set pink heart balloons free into the evening sky representing any restraint with coming out or becoming their true selves.
Members of the University and community recognized Gender and Sexuality Diversity with bias-free virtual conversations on Monday. Attendees discussed the challenging political climate in the United States, trans- and homophobia, in addition to a discussion around pronouns and the proper way to address someone in the LBGTQ+ community. During the anonymous online conversations, one brave student shared that she was once asked about her human biological status, which made her feel very uncomfortable. The sentiment was expressed by others in attendance.
As the the world is still working on accepting others, there have been many students who’ve felt welcomed by the Shippensburg University community. Programs like Gender Inclusive Housing, announced by Housing & Residence Life this week, continue to put the safety of students first. For those that identify as transgender, gender fluid, non-binary or for those who wish not to disclose gender/or sexual identity, Ship now offers an option to request a roommate of any preference to ensure all students have a safe and comfortable residential experience.
All current students, including incoming first year, transfer, readmitted and graduate students have the opportunity to indicate their choice for Gender Inclusive Housing. Housing will not ask any question regarding gender or gender identity for students filling out the request form. All room types will be available including traditional housing. All roommates must agree to gender inclusive housing accommodation before the approval of the assignment takes place.
Diversity Week continued at Ship with each day addressing a unique theme including topics on Racial Diversity, Ability Diversity, and Political and Religious Diversity.
On Friday, the MSA and the ACT Committee unveiled their project, “A Quilt to Cover Us All”. The physical hand-sewn quilt with patches from campus groups was designed to help generate a spirit of unity and cry for justice. In addition to the quilt, MSA sponsored a dedication ceremony of the newly renovated Gilbert Hall, followed by a student-driven storytelling event to capture how one’s race uniquely impacts and shapes campus and community life. Storytellers included: Senior Leah Mottershead, senior Brenda Aristy, ODL graduate student Ramses Ovalles, senior Katherine Hargrove, sophomore Nequwan Ali, and senior Quamia Wells.
Diversity Week 2020 concluded with a Diversity Celebration Day. A food truck festival took tastebuds on a journey around the world including Mexican tacos, Greek gyros, Iraqi and Argentinian empanadas, and Philly cheesesteaks. Students concluded by lighting up the night with a Ship Unite luminary ceremony and late night Glo Celebration dance party with DJ Rictor.
Diversity Week was a historic moment for Shippensburg University. Diverse students will always be part of the Ship family, because we are “One Campus, Many Cultures”.