Author: Damian Mendieta
Occidental’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) sparked school-wide awareness last week with its annual Coming Out Week, enjoying greater participant turnout than that of previous years, according to QSA secretary Olivia Reed (junior). The club’s leadership team, led by President Samuel Wylie (sophomore), promoted greater understanding and awareness of issues that members of the LGBTQ community face.
The week’s events included an ally-panel Monday night, a Coming Out Booth Tuesday in the quad, a social mixer later that night in the Center for Gender Equity (CGE), an ice-cream social on Wednesday night and a dinner outside Collins’ House on Thursday. The Tuesday event, titled Speak Out, took place on National Coming Out Day. Organizers set up a stage with a closet in the quad. A multi-colored balloon rainbow adorned the stage as students opened the door and ‘came out’ to the cheers of spectating students. Coming Out Week at Occidental was well-received with school-wide support from students. Compared to similar celebrations at other institutions, some students regard Occidental’s Coming Out Week as an overall better experience.
“I feel like Occidental has a huge amount of support,” transfer student and Programming Chair of QSA Jeremiah Wang (junior) said. “Whereas at Boston College we’re really going against the grain of Catholic Institution by doing any events, over here it was super awesome to see lots of students come to events. It was very inspiring.”
This year QSA focused on addressing biphobia, a form of discrimination towards bisexual people, according to QSA Vice President Lonnie McGown (sophomore).
McGown and other participants of Coming Out Week said bisexual people feel pressured by heterosexual and homosexual groups to “pick one or the other” in terms of their sexual orientation and are the targets of ignorant commentary.
“They get the inappropriate comments like you can have twice as much sex,” McGown said. “One of our big focuses is not just tolerance for everybody but also acceptance and understanding so we can get rid of different phobias and prejudices and assumptions.”
QSA member Luis Orozco (first-year) thinks Occidental is doing a good job getting rid of some of those phobias and prejudices. Orozco said that he could never come out so freely at his high school.
“In college I can be gay and open about it,” Orozco said. “But in high school I was proud to be gay but I wouldn’t tell people. I would if they asked me.”
public. We hope the two sides will be able to resolve the situation quickly.”
The protesters refused to answer questions or give their names. The project manager for the Tovey/Shultz renovation of Swan Hall, Ryan Tovey, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Temecula Valley Drywall. Students are divided on the College’s responsibility towards contractors. History major Annie Lehman (senior) heard about the protest secondhand.
“I agree that if we hire people for jobs we ought to make sure the college is being socially responsible in choosing what companies to work with. Everything that is outsourced from the college, so to speak, should comply with consistent social justice standards,” Lehman said. The protesters may have taken the wrong tact with their sign. “I guess I’m confused what they are calling on President Veitch to do,” she said.
Student Labor Action Committee (SLAC) executive board member Alana Murphy (junior) released a statement on behalf of SLAC regarding the labor dispute.
“As of now, SLAC is looking into this situation. The protesters are not Oxy students and they are in no way affiliated with the school or SLAC. That said, SLAC is always interested in supporting worker’s rights. We plan on further investigating this situation and if we find that there is a genuine injustice, we would be happy to support their efforts.”
Goodenberger explained that incoming slots are competitive because, unlike many colleges, Occidental offers financial aid to transfers. During the spring, admissions typically admits about 10 transfers, but this year the college may use transfers as an opportunity to refill the class, according to Egitto.
“We very well might admit more students than normal in the spring semester to make up for this.”
Pineiro-Goodenberger explained that decisions regarding transfers come from recommendations made by the Enrollment Planning Committee.
“After the census, the Enrollment Planning Committee has some projections for student body size,” Pineiro-Goodenberger said. “All different departments, financial aid, admissions, everyone, looks at these and adds their own considerations. Based on all that, the Enrollment Planning Committee makes a decision about the direction of the school in the next years. This includes admissions and transfers.”
Despite the high attrition rate, the student population is larger than ever before, with 2,123 students. The fall 2011 census showed growth of 15 percent since 2008. Pinero Goodenberger and others in the Office of Admissions attribute this growth to Obama’s election. Prior to 2008, the student body hovered between 1800 and 1900 for nearly a decade.
activists for economic justice.
“The organizational response from students has to have a nation-wide students has to have a nation-wide scale to really link up with this movement,” Girgenti said. “In the coming weeks student organizers are going to be figuring out if we can connect to national student organizational frameworks.”
Thus, the function of the group’s Fall Break stay at City Hall was not just to get Occidental students down to the protest. The real purpose of the group’s stay, which they made clear in their meeting last Thursday, was to make connections with other student groups involved in the Occupy movement.
According to Girgenti, networking over the break went well. The group plans to hold a post-Fall Break conference to debrief the long-weekend camp-out and to make plans for the future of Occidental student involvement in Occupy.
Not all Occidental students, however, agree with the Occupy Movement.
Politics major Andrea Kippur (senior), aside from noting the hypocrisy she sees in wealthy students at a posh liberal arts school rallying behind “the 99%,” takes issue with the decentralization and lack of a refined goal of the Occupy movement.
“I think one of the main flaws with this ‘occupy’ movement is that it does not seem to have a direct momentum heading towards a goal. The posters range from gay rights to women’s rights to anti-capitalist manifestos. However, it doesn’t seem like many of these “occupiers” even understand the political environment that allowed for corporations to make so much money,” Kippur said.
Mimi Hitzemann (sophomore), also an Occidental student and organizer for YCCA, isn’t bothered by the lack of specific goals in the Occupy protests.
“At this point Occupy isn’t a movement per se, it’s about waking up the country, shifting the framework from ‘greed is good’ to love and justice,” she said.
“I really hope Oxy students start thinking historically,” Guido said. “I think we should not and we cannot lose this opportunity to build a powerful movement around issues of justice and equity because if we lose this opportunity and we don’t grab this moment in history, we might enter a period where there are no job prospects for young graduates, no relief for crushing student loan debt and the channels for democratic protest will continue to be eaten away by corporate money.”
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