Following several years of inactivity, Spectrum at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) had its first meeting in some time on Nov. 8. The club, headed by president Aimée Fiske and vice president Jo Jeffries, is one of the few campus groups created by and for LGBTQ undergraduate students.
Spectrum’s history is somewhat murky. It was active in 2013, but in the past five years, membership gradually fizzled out. After Fiske and Jeffries met through Queer Year 1, an LGBTQ social cohort for first-year students, they considered starting a new group for graduates of the program. But as Fiske stated in an interview, “We knew that Spectrum was on the rocks…and we thought, hmm, is this moving anywhere?” They eventually decided to revive the dying organization and restart a general club for all LGBTQ undergraduates.
After a few months of organizing and editing the old constitution, Fiske and Jeffries officially launched Spectrum. The first meeting attracted about 20 LGBTQ students and allies. Though it was a remarkably casual affair, with many jokes and a lot of laughter, the president and vice president were quite serious about the club’s rebirth. When asked about their goals for the year, Fiske stated: “I want to foster a community that will not die. I want a place where it’s easy to get to know one another and be comfortable with each other without excluding new people.” Jeffries agreed, adding: “We need a safe place for LGBTQ students at UNC Charlotte to engage in queer community and activism.”
The first meeting did not come without its hardships. Coordinating between two generations of the club — in order to get good advice, copies of key documents and access to vital accounts — was difficult. As Fiske put it, “We’re kind of starting from nothing, but we’re also kind of not, so things are a little weird.” Another challenge was dealing with the university’s bureaucracy. UNCC’s campus-wide information systems, like Banner and Canvas, don’t typically permit the usage of preferred names. NinerEngage, an online platform for UNCC’s student organizations, has a field for preferred names on user profiles, but still identifies club leaders and members predominantly by their legal names. This was a serious issue for Jeffries, who is a nonbinary student. “Banner does not reflect [our] preferred names,” they said. “You have to use your legal name, which is not accessible to everybody.”
But overall, the president and vice president are ready to begin a new chapter of Spectrum’s history. They lead one of the many new clubs making up a rapidly growing and increasingly visible LGBTQ campus community. Pride, a club centered on queer and transgender people of color, and Transgender League Charlotte, a discussion group for transgender, nonbinary and questioning students, are two other LGBTQ campus organizations that have popped up this semester. Other existing groups, such as Queer Year 1 and Graduate Student P.R.I.D.E, are seeing expansions in membership and involvement. Plus, with the opening date for UNCC’s LGBTQ space approaching, community ties can only get stronger.
And Fiske and Jeffries are excited to be a part of it. “I want a big community,” Fiske stated. “I want us to struggle to find a big enough room!”