Public relations senior Anthony DeWitt, president of ASU’s chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, said the Downtown campus is still young and has room for growth when it comes to establishing more organizations.
“I think the primary reason is that it’s a new campus … and I think we’re the first because of that,” DeWitt said. “I think others will follow.”
DeWitt, who founded NLGJA last year, said he ran into difficulties at first because students were reluctant to join the organization.
“People were apprehensive about joining because they were afraid it would affect their career, and then it was really ironic because as people joined, they really started to enjoy it,” he said.
With 10 core members and three more who are affiliated, NLGJA is expanding slowly but steadily in its first year. While it is open to anyone, the club focuses primarily on journalism students. Most of ASU’s more generalized gay and lesbian organizations, such as the LGBTQ Coalition and GradOUT, are based on the Tempe campus.
Ryan McLaughlin, vice president of NLGJA, is familiar with being forced to commute in order to be involved with Tempe-based organizations. As a member of the gay fraternity Sigma Phi Beta last year and a current member of the Human Rights Campaign, McLaughlin changed his major from broadcast journalism to communications in order to move to the Tempe campus.
“It was hard for me because I was involved in a lot of groups, but they weren’t downtown,” he said. “I missed almost every meeting, and eventually, I had to choose.”
McLaughlin wasn’t alone in his frustration.
“When I was going to the Cronkite School, a lot of people would ask, ‘Do you know of any (gay and lesbian clubs) downtown?’” he said. “A lot of people were upset because it was hard to get to the Tempe campus, and they wanted something closer.”
Starting more gay and lesbian organizations on the Downtown campus would require “drive and ambition,” McLaughlin said–especially on the part of younger students.
“I think the hardest part is … keeping people active enough in it, and getting those people to recruit others who are younger than us,” he said. “We need those freshmen to keep us going.”
Andres Cano, a broadcast journalism sophomore and the secretary of NLGJA, said as the Downtown campus expands, clubs promoting diversity should grow along with it.
“As our campus continues to grow and bring in diverse perspectives, it’s imperative that we have an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of all students,” he said.
The issue goes beyond whether or not students agree with what the organizations stand for, Cano said.
“This isn’t an issue about whether you support the gay community or not,” he said. “It’s about providing a student experience that promotes diversity and respect.”
Contact the reporter at email@example.com