by Kalie Ammons
Throughout the state, several colleges and universities have decided to publicly oppose HJR-6, an Indiana amendment proposing to permanently make same-sex marriages illegal, including Indiana University, Eli Lilly, DePauw University and Wabash College. After a petition to join these colleges signed by students, faculty and staff at MU was presented to the University, the school chose to stay neutral.
This lead to students and faculty from the United Sexualities and Peace Studies clubs to organize a sit-in to express their feelings on HJR-6.
Darcy Robins, president of United Sexualities, and Becca Creath, Peace Studies Coordinator, teamed up to organize a sit-in for last Tuesday in front of The Union, the University’s most popular dining area.
“We had a brainstorming table that had a large piece of paper on it that people could write their ideas of how to make Manchester more inclusive for everyone,” Robins told The Paper. “People, students, staff, alumni, whoever was there, were asked to write down any ideas.”
The list of ideas will be emailed to the University with the hope that some will be put in place.
Students who rejected HJR-6 were also invited to sign a large banner that had HJR-6 sitting in a red circle with a line through it.
“We had a petition started up on a laptop that we started online at ipetitions.com,” said Robins. “We also had a writing table where people could write letters to their representatives and senators and legislators.”
Robins also stressed that this was not a protest to the University. “Our main goal was to have a peaceful, quiet sit-in. It was really just asking for solidarity for the LGBTQ community.”
Attendees also played and listened to music. “We just hung out and supported one another,” said Robins. “Those who rejected HJR-6 had the opportunity to educate themselves on what it is. It was just a way to tell people, ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’”
Students did not have an issue with others trying to disrupt the event.
“I’ve talked with a couple of people who have sided with the school, saying it was a great move by remaining neutral and fostering conversations,” Robins said. “I agree that they are fostering conversations, but I don’t agree with their decision at all. It’s just not good in my eyes.”
The University organized a meeting the Friday before the sit-in where anyone could ask questions to the cabinet about the University’s decision.
“That was really nice,” said Robins. “We were heard. The cabinet got sent emails and letters and got phone calls and they responded as quickly as they could and still are responding.”
The meeting lasted an hour and was an open-floor concept. The cabinet as a whole expressed its stance as a University to remain neutral, however individual views did surface.
“They all said each one of them rejected HJR-6,” said Robins. “But they came out as a school to stay neutral because they haven’t said anything about civil rights issues before and they don’t want to start it now.”
Robins presented a new petition to the members of the cabinet and asked if those who opposed HJR-6 would sign it, and all cabinet members said they would.
About 60-75 people showed up to the sit-in throughout the day, and many stopped by on their way to class or lunch to get more information on the subject.
“People were asking questions, people were definitely engaged,” Robins said. “And that’s what we were there for, to have that conversation.”
The immediate goal for the organizers of the event is to keep the conversation going. Students plan to request more from the University to support the LGBTQ community.
“We want gender-neutral bathrooms in all of the resident halls and at least one in every academic building,” explained Robins. “We’re going to push for more trans-inclusive language, so when people register to go to Manchester they can put their gender-preferred pronoun and preferred name.”
Students would also like to have an LGBTQ activist on campus. “Just like we have someone in the Intercultural Center and the Disability Center, we’re trying to get someone to coordinate activities on campus and have conventions,” said Robins.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are much like community bathrooms. They are not family restrooms and will not have a baby-changing station.
“It’s really for people who either don’t want to walk so far to another restroom or people who might identify as male and don’t feel comfortable in an all-female bathroom,” said Robins.
“We want them to be handicap accessible, have a shower, so people feel safe showering if they don’t, and just to raise awareness,” said Robins. “We need to be more inclusive as a campus and more trans-aware.”
Robins and some other students and faculty members started requesting these bathrooms last year with a project called “Operation Potty in Peace.”
For right now though, students are still focusing on HJR-6.
“We’re just still trying to educate,” said Robins. “That’s the biggest thing I can say, is just to have those conversations and to be more inclusive. Now we just wait until January when everything will be presented to Congress.