LGBTQ+ Students Bring More Opportunities to Campus

Bradley students who may have missed out on events like prom or pride parades before college finally had the chance to make up for it at this year’s Pride Prom, hosted by the Common Ground student organization.

As with all Common Ground events, the dance was built to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to be social, according to junior game design major and president of Common Ground Anthony Drapeau.

“People need a place where they don't need to worry about being looked down upon or excluded because of their identity,” Drapeau said. “A place where they can share what pronouns they're going by, or experiment with what pronouns they're going by. A place where they're able to air their frustrations to people who they know will listen and won't think less of them because of their identity.”

As part of their charge to provide such spaces, Common Ground is developing resources that cater to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ students, including a community library and community closet. However, Common Ground isn’t the only student organization working to better the lives of LGBTQ+ Bradley students.

Queer Coalition, a student organization built out of the Brave Space internship through the Women’s and Gender Studies department, is a relatively new player in the LGBTQ+ space on campus. Focusing more on the activism and education side of queer issues, the organization facilitates workshops for classes across campus on things like allyship, advocacy, acceptance and inclusion.

“The existence of an activist group is a good thing, even in spaces that are relatively safe, because they make sure that advocacy and allyship doesn't stop with the first step,” senior English major, women's and gender studies minor and Queer Coalition member Kylan Butler said. “It's more than just letting queer people exist in this space. What we're fighting for is acceptance and inclusion as we are.”

As part of that fight, Queer Coalition has organized Bradley University’s very first LGBTQ+ affinity graduation, called the Lavender Graduation.

Biology major, anthropology minor and women and gender studies minor Abbey McComb is the Queer Coalition member spearheading Lavender Graduation. The event celebrates LGBTQ+ students and the unique statistical and societal hurdles they’ve overcome.

McComb, who also develops and facilitates the curriculum for Brave Space workshops, was initially going to join Common Ground before they discovered the meeting times clashed with their schedule. Though proud to be part of the more activism-heavy Queer Coalition, the experience only reinforced the importance of variety in options for LGBTQ+ students to get involved with the Bradley community.

“Having spaces that are differentiated, like Common Ground and Queer Coalition, are very needed,” McComb said. “Just because you identify within a community doesn't mean you have to be an activist for the community.”

One upcoming resource for LGBTQ+ Bradley students is the Kaleidoscope Center, based in the Michel Student Center. Aiming to take a more broad approach and bridge the gap between community building and activism, the Kaleidoscope center is part of a larger push from the Office of Campus Culture and Climate to be more assertive in exposing students to the resources Bradley provides.

First year graphic design major Liliana Castro and first year UX design and psychology double major Ellie Diggins are two of the Office of Campus Culture and Climate’s new intercultural ambassadors – students trained to empower their peers by facilitating conversations on difficult topics. Together with their advisory board made up of Bradley employees and local community leaders, they plan to bring the benefits of a brick and mortar location to the resources already provided by Common Ground and Queer Coalition.

“I'm proud to be a Bradley student, especially right now, because we're doing all of this important work,” Castro said. “Maybe they weren't here before, but the ability and openness of the school to add all these resources that better our community is just really, really nice. I know at other schools we probably wouldn't have the same opportunities."