ECE students, faculty, and staff got together on Spirit Day to show their support for LGBTQ+ individuals and learn how to be better allies. Spirit Day, which occurred on October 18th, is a world-wide anti-bullying campaign designed to raise awareness about the challenges and issues faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community.
ECE handed out purple t-shirts and held a luncheon discussion facilitated by ECE undergraduate and graduate students, as well as an alumnus.
“I think everyone left with a better idea for how to contribute to an inclusive environment,” said Kristen Thornton, the ECE PhD graduate coordinator who helped organize the event.
To be a good ally of the LGBTQ+ community, students emphasized the importance of accepting advice and feedback when one says or does something inadvertently offensive. The discussion also focused on the importance for everyone to educate themselves about the issues facing people with identities they do not share. While it is not the responsibility of people who identify as LGBTQ+ to educate the wider public about their experiences, it was acknowledged that being patient and understanding with people who are actively striving to be better allies can help bridge divides and strengthen relationships.
The discussion ended with each person commenting on a small act they can do to strengthen inclusivity. Professors said they would use multiple platforms to emphasize inclusive messaging, including their lecture slides, syllabi, and signs on their door, in addition to their introductory class speech.
Staff said they would add their preferred personal pronouns (meaning their personal gender identity) to their e-mail signatures, which is a great way to support the trans/queer community, who often have to explicitly state their preferred personal pronouns. Finally, students pledged to be open and supportive to their peers.
ECE partnered with the Office of Student Affairs and the Spectrum Center to celebrate ECE Spirit Day, and additional financial sponsorship came from the College of Engineering.