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LGBT community blossoms at Winthrop University

GLoBAL, an on-campus support organization, has seen its membership explode and its roster of activities receive support from the highest administrative levels

by Jack Kirven . Q-Notes staff

Winthrop University is located in Rock Hill, S.C. GLoBAL celebrated the first week of October as ‘Out Week’ with various events, panels and even a drag show.
An idyllic campus setting with beautiful landscaping and historic architecture, as well as a sports program of growing renown, is becoming the site of one of the region’s newest LGBT cultural centers. Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., is the home of GLoBAL (Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Ally League), and its LGBT programming is witnessing a renaissance. Serving in the past as a social resource for helping students through the process of coming out, the organization has re-created itself as an activist group with some very particular agendas. No more gay movie night — GLoBAL now seeks to affect positive changes toward equality on campus.

Chris Brown, a student co-coordinator involved with various LGBT programming at Winthrop, took some time to share the news as it is set to unfold. “Overall there has been a lot of support,” Brown said, “and there have been very few instances of resistance.” In addition, he added, “Many straight allies are joining too.” With over 100 active members, including several staff and three or four professors (not to mention the many “safe-zone” professors), GLoBAL is gearing up for an active year.

The first week of October was celebrated as “Out Week” and included various events, panels and even a drag show. Eric Alva brought his presentation concerning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to campus, and many other events were sponsored throughout the week-long observation. The events will not stop in October, however. On Nov. 28 Todd Murray will give his presentation “HIV Looks Like Me” to Winthrop.

One of GLoBAL’s new campaigns will be equality concerning the discrimination policy on campus. “Professors can be fired for being gay,” Brown notes. “We’re pushing for equal rights for faculty and staff.”

Another benefit of extending tolerance is the environment of acceptance that will be created for LGBT students. “The climate on campus has become more open,” Brown explained, “although one professor did say he was offended by our work.”

Dr. Darren Ritzer, a former major in the U.S. Army and currently a professor in the Psychology Department, has purportedly expressed that he is offended by the activities GLoBAL is pursuing. Dr. Ritzer did not return calls from Q-Notes to clarify his objections.

Despite this small pocket of resistance, Brown has indicated that the LGBT programming at Winthrop will be following in the footsteps of USC-Columbia in terms of its acceptance policies. “We are going to make the case that Winthrop is behind and needs to be brought forward for consistency purposes within the state university system.” When lawmakers threatened to cut money to USC for pursuing equality the school “never lost its funding,” according to Brown.

Of particular interest is the administrative support that GLoBAL is enjoying. Dean of Students Bethany Marlowe has been an avid proponent for safe zones since 2003 when the program was first initiated. GLoBAL has strong allies and an active membership. Q-Notes will be following up on the progress the organization makes, so that everyone in the Carolinas can celebrate their victories.

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