Know your allies

Haven hosts meet and greet for LGBTQIA+ students, allies

Talia Parlane and Mason Brooks

Professor Christopher Hanson at the Haven meet and greet that was held on November 8th in Eaton Hall. (Latecia Ragland)

Around the room was a sea of rainbow masks. Students and staff ate snacks, laughed and mingled as they shared stories. One by one, each staff member introduced themselves, sharing encouragements and affirmations, making sure every single student knew they were supported. One thing was clear: This was a place for alliances.

On the evening of Nov. 8, Seattle Pacific University’s LGBTQIA+ club, Haven, hosted a meet and greet as an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ students and affirmers to socialize and build community.

To many SPU students, Haven has been an opportunity not only to connect with other members of the LGBTQIA+ community at SPU, but also to meet their allies and learn about their resources on campus.

One of these students, Evelyn Pineda, a sophomore majoring in politics, philosophy and economics, expressed her joy at seeing so many professors show up in support of Haven.

“I’m really happy with this event,” said Pineda. “It’s really heartwarming to see how many affirming staff there are.”

Dr. Christopher Hanson, director of music education and orchestral activities at SPU, was one of the affirming professors involved in Monday’s event.

“I’m definitely an outsider looking in and just wanted to offer my support as a faculty member,” said Hanson. “I hesitate to say that this is a long time coming, but in the context of everything that’s been happening, this was an opportunity for Haven in particular to create a social event for queer students, faculty, staff and allies on campus.”

In light of the impact behind the event, Hanson spoke of finding community and solidarity amongst students and faculty.

“I think that this is a really positive event,” said Hanson. “Because we’ve had these incredible dialogues and these community engagement opportunities where people are speaking out, and speaking with very important issues, but there hasn’t really been an opportunity for people to meet each other and to create and honor and support queerness and allyship.”

Junior history and museum studies major Isabel Bartosh, the publicist and outreach liaison for Haven, expressed a similar sentiment when it came to why Haven was holding the meet and greet.

Many students, staff, and faculty members gather around at the Haven meet and greet. (Latecia Ragland)

“[The meet and greet] was a social gathering designed so that students could meet staff and faculty members who are queer and affirming, and they could basically just see who their allies and who their resources are on campus,” said Bartosh. “Because a lot of people who are involved in Haven this year are transfer students or they are sophomores, but weren’t on campus last year, or just regular freshman, so they don’t know who their larger community is.”

Haven began as an unofficial club in 2006. It was not until nearly seven years later in 2013, however, when SPU administration allowed ASSP to approve the club and Haven was finally able to establish itself as an official campus organization.

“Even though SPU has changed a couple of things over the years, it is still a non-affirming university and it is really hard to find any kind of community on campus, because a lot of the community building activities that SPU puts on don’t really include queer students,” said Bartosh. “It’s just really hard to build any sort of community if you don’t know that the space is already like an affirming space, so that’s why Haven is important.”

Recently within the SPU community, there have been conversations due to a widely circulating Campus Pride list, which named SPU as one of the most unsafe places for LGBTQIA+ students.

Bartosh responded to this issue by emphasizing the role that policy plays in LGBTQIA+ efforts.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand how important policies are to the actual lived experience of students. In general, the student body here is pretty affirming, and there are a lot of faculty and staff members who are affirming and supportive,” said Bartosh. “But we’re still operating in a discriminatory system. SPU is still a discriminatory institution. And just because of the policies that SPU decides to support and decides to enact, student support can only go so far.”

With regards to the Campus Pride post, Bartosh hopes that seeing the reactions of outsiders to SPU’s LGBTQIA+ policies will act as a call to action.

“I hope that this will be a good wakeup call for people,” said Bartosh. “Just to see that other people are looking outside in and going ‘Oh wow, that’s bad; that’s a really bad situation at that university.’”