Unity Forum held to air out issues

Story by Briana Gruenewald

The LGBTQ Advisory Board hosted a Unity Forum in the Tamarack Room of Davies Monday afternoon to offer a respectful place for listening and discussion about recent national and local event that have been causing hurt in the LGBTQ community, according to Board Chair and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Beth Hellwig.

“The whole idea is really about trying to create a more healing experience on campus,” she said.

Citing recent teen suicides, bullying and the local Eau Queer Film Festival controversy as reasons for holding the forum, Hellwig emphasized the need for respectful and helpful language.

Several people spoke including Student Body President Dylan Jambrek, who addressed his recent e-mail controversy in which he asked Dr. Thomas Hilton to resign following Hilton’s e-mail to the director of the Eau Queer Film Festival.

Jambrek said he sees himself as an advocate of LGBTQ issues rather than a combatant, which is what some people have been referring to him as. He said he fears LGBTQ students do not feel safe on campus, adding that while strides have been made, they have clearly not been enough.

“I would encourage everyone here to continue talking about these things because frankly they’re not about politics, they’re not about being politically correct, they’re about people – people in our community,” he said.

Dr. Hilton was the first to speak at the open microphone section of the forum. He said he spent a long time trying to decide whether to attend the forum because he didn’t want to disturb or hurt people anymore than he already had. Hilton offered an apology, saying it was a statement from his heart.

“(Listening to feedback) has deepened my shame, it has broken my heart … it has taught me much,” he said.

Hilton exited the forum following his apology so as not to “cause further pain” to anyone.

Freshman Kyle Moeller attended the forum because he wanted to hear what different people had to say about the issues on campus and to hear voices that might not be expected. He was most struck by Hilton’s apology.

“I thought that was the most heartfelt and sincere aspect,” he said. “I think it’s because it is such a change.”

Father George Stamm, Episcopal priest and vice president of the LGBT Community Center of the Chippewa Valley, emphasized the fact that he believes being gay is not a choice.

“Science is finally catching up on the gay issue,” he said. “If you have blue eyes, that’s how God made you; if you have blonde hair, that’s how God made you; if you are gay, that’s how God made you.”

Sophomore Katrina Leonard attended the forum because equality is important to her and is something she continually strives for as a feminist. She said her favorite part was hearing Father Stamm speak because he brought a different perspective, which she respected.

“As an atheist … my biggest issue is that religion does not always seem to be as inclusive,” she said. “It does give me hope that there are people out there that are religious that are starting to include people.”

She was also pleased to see so many supportive faculty, students and organizations represented at the forum.

“It’s very good that we are making some positive strides to some change,” she said.