September 29, 2010

Knox more open to LGBTs

Colleges and universities across the nation may not be safe places for gay and lesbian students, a new report says.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, queer members of college communities face substantial harassment on a daily basis. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) college students have acknowledged significant discomfort regarding their sexual orientation on college campuses. Could Knox be included in this?

According to queer Knox students, no.

Sophomore Piper Jones said that his hometown Jacksonville, Ill. was a smaller town with “an oppressive environment.” He felt discomfort within his hometown, but at Knox, Jones said, “I’ve only had good experiences.” When visiting campus as a prospective student, he mentioned meeting members of Common Ground (the on-campus gay-straight alliance) and feeling “immediately accepted.”

Sophomore Ronni Neumann-Thompson, president of Common Ground, said that Knox “is definitely a positive change” from her small-town upbringing, where gays and lesbians were called derogatory names.

“Even if people don’t necessarily support being queer [at Knox], they at least accept it,” she said. Neumann-Thompson expressed her desire that Knox make Queer & Ally House (Q&A) a permanent housing option. Q&A is a 24/7 safe place open to all, but focuses on the needs of the queer community.

Junior Beth McRill added that Q&A hosts open-campus events (like the upcoming Haunted House) and that there “always seem to be a pretty good turn-out,” with support coming from staff, administration and students across campus.

In fact, Knox is one of the “100 Best Campuses” in the nation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students, as stated in The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. For some, this was a major contributor in their college decision.

“The people who support LGBT were the people I want to be surrounded by,” said freshman Quiana Klossner. “[Knox] gives you a vibe you can’t get elsewhere.”

Though there were many accolades on behalf of the school, experiences with Galesburg have not been so positive. Senior Lauren Reid said, “I had bottles thrown at me and been called a ‘faggot.’”

Klossner said that she has never felt afraid while on campus, but went on to say that there was “a sense of fear. People are not really out. They don’t go around sharing their queerness.” She ssif that this is the one area in which the Knox campus can improve. She wished that the queer community would feel comfortable enough to proudly display their sexuality, and added that discomfort is contagious.

“I’ve never had a negative encounter,” junior Warren Grabner said. He admitted that there can be some frustration regarding administration but that “their hearts are in the right place.”

None of the students interviewed could think of an incident in which they were harassed or even made uncomfortable about their sexuality while on campus.

Samantha Paul
Samantha Paul is a senior double majoring in creative writing and Spanish. She previously served as both a news reporter and a copy editor for TKS. During the summer of 2012, Sam served as press chair of a literacy brigade in El Salvador. She has also interned with both Bloom Magazine and The Galesburg Register-Mail. At Knox, Sam is an organizational editor for Catch magazine.

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