“LGBTQ2IA+ teach-in” educated community on inclusivity and issues surrounding it

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  • Wendy Spaček

  • Amber Hoefer

  • Tylene Carnell

  • Julianna Kropla

  • Malik Cantu

  • James Seth

  • Griff Tester

  • Lacy Ferrell (left)

  • Drs. Geraldine O’Mahony

  • Rebecca Lubas

  • Michelle O’Brien (left) James Seth (right)

  • EQUAL students table at the teach-in, chalk art was created at the event, Geraldine O’Manhony gave a speech and CWU students and community members attended the teach-in together, bringing families and friends.

  • Wendy Spaček

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Stephen Martin, Staff Reporter

Faculty, students and community members came together Monday night for an LGBTQ2IA+ teach-in in front of the Brooks Library. This teach-in was an action taken by the library in response to a vandalism incident that involved a person writing homophobic slurs and politically partisan statements throughout the library.

Participants took turns delivering speeches about their experiences being queer in Ellensburg and what administrators can do to make CWU more inclusive. Along with speakers, there was poster making, sidewalk art and warm drinks. The speeches were also live-streamed on Zoom.

There were over a dozen speakers in total, who touched on subjects ranging from previous hate crimes, how language can be used to dehumanize others and the AIDS epidemic. Griff Tester, an associate professor in sociology, outlined what he thinks CWU needs to do to make campus more inclusive.

“There needs to be a complete review of every policy on this campus to look at its anti-discrimination policies and remove all non-inclusive language,” Tester said. “Campus healthcare and counseling must be inclusive, including the coverage of needs of trans and non-binary students.”

Tylene Carnell, an organizer with the Pride Foundation and Helen House, said that she is tired of people who claim Ellensburg does not have a problem with inclusivity without having ever experienced what it’s like to be a member of a marginalized group.

“I hear things like ‘we don’t have a race problem in this community,’ ‘we don’t have an LGBTQ problem in this community,’” Carnell said. “My question to them is always, ‘When was the last time you walked down the sidewalk as a young Black man in this community? When was the last time you sat in a restaurant or in a bar in this community as a trans woman? When was the last time you walked through a store or walked down a sidewalk during the middle of a pandemic as a young Asian student?’”

A student speaker, who chose to remain anonymous, said they are concerned about communication between campus police and the town police, after numerous incidents. This includes a situation where the town police knew their friend’s name and where they lived on campus despite never having called the police before.

“I want to know why there seems to be communication between the campus police and the Ellensburg police without any precedent for student privacy or safety,” they said. “A large portion of this campus’ marketing is specifically around how we’re centered around diversity. Diversity means nothing when there is no equity and no safety in this primarily white town at all. I do not feel safe on this campus, I don’t feel safe in this town, and I’m white and I’m cis passing.”

President Jim Wohlpart, who was in attendance, said he plans to take the messages shared to heart and make administrative changes.

The perspectives that have been shared have deepened my understanding of the culture we have here and the work we need to do,” Wohlpart said. “I took notes on some of the things that were brought up as elements that we still need to work on.”

Dean of Libraries Rebecca Lubas said that she was happy with the turnout, especially considering the event went on into the bitter cold of the night.

“I’m very happy with how many people turned out given how cold it was,” Lubas said. “I would have liked a little bigger crowd, because I think this is the kind of thing you can’t have a big enough crowd for. But I think given how chilly it was, I thought it was a great turn out.”

She also said that she hopes the event helps make the library feel like a welcoming space again.

What happened was really a violation of everything we stand for, because we’re supposed to be welcoming and inclusive for people, and that made people feel unwelcome,” Lubas said. “It was a fundamental violation of what we stand for, and we want to hopefully regain that sense of safety and trust.”