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Alumni Association adds gay chapter

In an effort to support a more diverse atmosphere at USF, the Alumni Center opened a new chapter for gay and lesbian alumni in April. By contrast to the political storm that followed the recent vote by Hillsborough County commissioners not to support or publicize Gay Pride events that created a political storm, the creation of the chapter in April barely caused a ripple.

Alumni association member Merrill Dickey said the fallout from Hillsborough County’s vote has not affected the establishment of the chapter, known as the Gay And Lesbian Association, or GALA.

“I don’t think it affects the alumni association,” Dickey said. “We are moving ahead with our diversity initiative. (The initiative) is working and we’re getting a positive response. We’ve had other groups express a possible interest in opening chapters with the alumni association.”

The alumni association hopes the new chapter will attract students who previously would have lost contact with the University and will provide support for gay student groups.

“One of the important things we want to do is attract the active student groups on campus,” Dickey, coordinator for the Advancement of Alumni Affairs, said. “When they leave they can become part of the active alumni base. One of the important things we want to do is to show that we support current students as well.”

USF kicked off the new chapter with a keynote speech from Karen Doering, the regional council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“I think it’s a model that all schools around the state should emulate,” Doering said in an interview with WUSF.

Many on-campus organizations attended the kick-off event, including members of the Visual Arts Department, faculty, staff and P.R.I.D.E Alliance.

“I think that it’s great, it shows the time we are at, people need to step up and need to be more interconnected with those who can understand their plights,” Bryan Kendall, co-chair of Pride Alliance, said in an interview with WUSF.

Michelle Carlyon, director of Media Relations, said the creation of the chapter is in keeping with the University’s support of minority groups.

“President Genshaft and the University are very committed to the importance of diversity,” Carlyon said. “We want to create a welcoming environment for every member of the USF community. We are proud to embrace different viewpoints and perspectives.”