By Deirdre Kelshaw
Seen as a perfect chance to celebrate incoming and returning members of the LGBTQ+ community at the beginning of their time at TCNJ, PRISM and Student Government co-sponsored the first annual Lavender Convocation with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Oct. 12 in the Brower Student Center.
The event gave the College the opportunity to support the LGBTQ+ community without attendees needing to reveal their personal sexual orientation.
According to hrc.org, The Lavender Graduation, an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor LGBTQ+ students, was created by Ronni Sanlo in 1995 after she was denied entrance into her children’s graduation ceremonies due to her sexual orientation.
Sanlo understood the pain felt by LGBTQ+ students, and designed the first Lavender Graduation at the University of Michigan. There were only three graduates at the time, a number that has since grown.
“We adopted (The Lavender Convocation) from our annual Lavender Graduation,” said Director of Diversity and Inclusion Don Trahan. “Upon speaking with a former colleague, Carol Evangelisto from CAPS who retired at the end of the last academic year, we realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to honor members of the LGBT community at the beginning of their time at TCNJ.”
Trahan explained that The Lavender Convocation also serves as a networking opportunity for students to mingle with supportive faculty and staff members.
Although these convocations are held at college campuses nationwide, Trahan explained that there are many institutions that still lack these types of inclusive events.
“Different colleges have a variety of different support systems and it kind of looks different from campus to campus,” Trahan said.
William Keep, the dean of the School of Business, began the convocation with a Youtube video about inclusion before passing the spotlight onto Sean Stallings, the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, who shared his role of serving as an advocate for students by promoting diversity and inclusion on campus.
Senior biology major Alina Osborn, an intern in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, also spoke at the event. Osborn works specifically to help solve LGBTQ+ issues on campus and helped to organize and run The Lavender Convocation, along with Dr. Don Trahan and her fellow intern Aviva Ron, a junior women’s, gender and sexuality studies major.
“Today we have the privilege of celebrating you,” Osborn said. “It can be a lot tougher being a queer college student –– our community is strong and we are resilient.”
After initial presentations, students were given the opportunity to get to know one another over refreshments.
To members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus, the Lavender Convocation “means that TCNJ is an accepting college full of diversity,” according to Forum Modi, a freshman computer science major.
Faculty members views the event as a great opportunity to celebrate a segment of the student population. Trahan is also happy to help spread awareness of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“It is an opportunity to celebrate our students from the time that they enter The College of New Jersey,” Trahan said. “We wanted to make sure that … we honor our students throughout the entire time that they’re here.”
Trahan expressed his appreciation for all the support shown by the entire campus community.
“It makes my heart smile,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the commitment of everyone willing to move our campus forward.”