By Faith Tarpley
Elm Staff Writer
A new school year means new student voices on Washington College’s campus. One of those voices comes from freshman Jack Wilson. A summer aid in the Student Affairs office and Chestertown native, Wilson gathered incoming LGBTQA first-year students at an impromptu welcome meeting. He held the meeting in Hynson Hall during the 2015 freshman and first year orientation.
A diversity and inclusion lecture followed the meeting and was led by Dr. Xavier Cole, vice president of Student Affairs. Sarah Feyerherm, the associate vice president for Student Affairs, was also present at the meeting of WC’s incoming class of gay and straight allies.
Wilson said he was one of three “out” students from his entire high school. He wanted all of the new students to feel comfortable in their own skin and in their new home. “Freshmen and first years will always feel isolated,” he said. “With this meeting, I wanted [LGBTQA students] to feel as welcome as everyone else on campus.”
It was in this meeting that Wilson, along with many other students, shared his sexual orientation with his new classmates for the first time. After each self-introduction was a round of applause from those gathered. “I had not come out to my roommates and had been curious as to how that conversation would go,” said Wilson. “I was happily surprised when he saw all of his roommates in the audience, clapping and cheering along with everyone else. I was even happier when they rushed up to him with a big group hug at the end of the meeting.”
When asked for his thoughts on such examples of student initiative, Dr. Cole said that not only is he proud of students like Wilson but that WC relies on them. “It’s student and peer lead conversation that is important,” said Cole. “It will be the students who move this forward.” Regarding goals for WC’s administration, Dr. Cole said that he sees his office “working with heads of student organizations…to bring people into their space to have more defined conversations.”
This was not a singular event but instead the first of many gatherings to celebrate WC’s diverse community. “Part of diversity and inclusion is seeing other people as different and then working to accept that,” said Wilson. One place where this is possible is through E.R.O.S.
E.R.O.S., or Encouraging Respect of Sexuality, is an organization on campus that encourages equality and respect within the LGBTQA community. The club holds weekly meetings in Daly 107 at 7:15 p.m. At the most recent meeting, members of the club discussed a TED Talk about LGBTQA stereotyping.
E.R.O.S.’s next event is a “Coming-Out Tea,” which will be held on Sunday, Oct. 11. The event is in partnership with TaNGO, or Trans and Nonconforming Gender Organization. The tea is open to anyone whether they are out, not out, or allies of the LGBTQA community. E.R.O.S. and TaNGO ask that everyone who attends remain respectful and considerate of each other.