The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) initiated this year with new objectives. It is a revamped organization headed toward giving LGBT+ individuals and allies a place for discussion, collaboration and ideas.
Last year, the club went through board and name changes. What was known as the Gay Straight Alliance turned into the Gender and Sexuality Alliance to include people from all over the gender spectrum and sexual orientations.
Student participation in the club has increased from four active members to 12 active and 33 registered members this year so far.
“I think a lot of the growth we are seeing follows the trend that younger generations are more and more accepting and open with the LGBTQ+ community,” junior Josh Jaton, president of the GSA, said. “Going forward, I hope that more individuals identify themselves somewhere on the sexuality spectrum or gender spectrum, or not on a spectrum at all.”
The GSA board worked alongside the university’s admissions office to recruit students who hold LGBTQ+ activism dear.
“Last year, I had admission representatives contact me hoping that I would be willing to reach out to prospective students,” Jaton said. “So, I happily reached out to them all and helped affirm and clarify questions, doubts, etc. while still keeping true to the campus’ climate.”
GSA’s vice-president, junior Sam Mettler, attributes the increase of student involvement to reaching out to high school leaders.
“We have a lot of people who were student leaders of their high school GSAs and that is really exciting to see because it makes the future of our club more secure,” Mettler said. “I love that there are more members this year because I love the feeling that our community is expanding and that Augustana is drawing more people from groups that tend to not be thought of.”
“I’m happy to see that so many of [the students I reached out to] ended up committing to Augie,” Jaton said. “It makes me excited to see if I will be paired with more prospective students this year, especially those who were leaders in their high school communities since those are the folks that are going to be willing to roll up their sleeves and get the ball rolling.”
The GSA’s main objective is to create an ambiance of safety for the LGBTQ+ community and open dialogue about issues that affect its members.
“In a conservative state at a college with not as much diversity as places like Minneapolis, it is easy for minority groups like the LGBTQ+ community to feel like they are alone or sometimes even in danger,” Mettler said. “It is really important to create a space where we can feel safe and hear about anything that our campus can do to improve their experience, because often our voices get lost in the crowd.”
Students were drawn to the club because of the environment it offers.
“I think a lot of people who belong in the queer community in a small school feel like they do not have a place where they feel accepted, close or safe,” senior Alex Meyer, a GSA member, said. “This club is a way to get that started, at least.”
With an increased number of members and events and the continuation of projects like gender neutral housing, GSA is off to a good start.
“GSA is so eager to reach out to students and plan events,” Jayna Fitzsimmons, GSA’s faculty advisor, said. “I’m excited about the different types of events the club’s members have talked about, from movie nights to advocacy events.”
The club intends to increase their outreach by associating with LGBTQ+ communities off-campus and in local high schools.
“I think it’s still too early to tell what difference there’s between last year and this year in terms of productivity, but I’m very much hopeful that we will reach a much broader base,” Jaton said. “This year we have been getting in contact with local high school gender and sexuality alliances and trying to plan joint events.”