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Awareness week begins today

Jenn Metz | Monday, April 12, 2010

The Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students’ annual spring awareness event encourages students to take a stand against discrimination and participate in healing dialogue.

StaND Against Hate Week kicks off today and continues through Friday, the National Day of Silence, a nationwide movement to pledge a vow of silence against anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) discrimination.

Senior and co-chair of the Core Council Eddie Velazquez said the Council hopes to bring the problem of discrimination to the attention of the Notre Dame community during this week’s events and provide opportunities for discussion, questions and healing.

“It’s important that [the community] realize that there are certain situations where LGBT students are treated unfairly,” he said.

For the past three years, StaND Against Hate Week has included a film screening, Velazquez said. Tonight at 7 p.m. the Core Council will present “The Laramie Project,” a 2002 film that documents the effects of the murder of Matthew Shepard on the citizens of Laramie, Wyo., in the Carey Auditorium of the Hesburgh Library. Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man, was tortured and murdered near Laramie in 1998. His trial brought national attention to the reality of hate crimes and discrimination against the LGBT community.

The film will be followed by a question and answer session facilitated by the University Counseling Center to examine questions — both emotional and psychological — for people that face anti-LGBT harassment, Velazquez said.

“We start of the week immediately considering what happens not just to those directly involved [in acts of discrimination and violence] but also the people around then,” he said.

The week will feature two new events this year: a guest lecturer and a coffeehouse.

Psychology professor Dominic Parrott from Georgia State University will present a lecture titled “Homosexuality Under the Dome: Past Struggles and Present Solutions” at 7 p.m.

Tuesday in the Carey Auditorium. Parrott’s research is focused primarily on violence against LGBT people, Velazquez said.

The lecture will be followed by a panel featuring alumni and members of the Core Council discussing the experiences of LGBT students on campus and how relations have changed over the years.

A coffeehouse in the Coleman-Morse Center Thursday evening is perhaps the “most important to take note of,” Velazquez said. Students will be given the opportunity to bring in artwork that represents love, hate, prejudice and healing to “share their responses to things like discrimination artistically,” he said.

“The coffeehouse provides the student body a chance to really engage themselves and other students in tackling the difficulties in dealing with LGBT harassment,” he said. “Art gives people a creative outlet to deal with situations.”

Other events include a talk called “Sexuality,” part of the Gender Relations Center (GRC) Signature series. The Core Council collaborates with the GRC every year during StaND Against Hate Week, Velazquez said.

On Friday, free StaND Against Hate Week T-shirts will be distributed at Fieldhouse Mall beginning at 11 a.m. Velazquez called the T-shirts one of the highlights of the week, and Sr. Sue Dunn, co-chair of the Core Council and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, encourages students to wear the T-shirts in solidarity with the National Day of Silence.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our Notre Dame students and community to stand against hate,” she said.

The week will conclude with a prayer service in the Coleman-Morse chapel to reflect followed by an ice cream social.

Velazquez said he observed an increase in support for LGBT students on campus and he hopes the support will be reflected in event attendance.

“It will be refreshing and encouraging to see how much participation we can get,” he said. “We’ll work to keep that awareness alive at Notre Dame.”

Velazquez said this year’s events have even more relevance after The Observer published an offensive comic earlier in the semester.

“It had some really positive outcomes,” he said, including raising awareness of discrimination against LGBT members of the Notre Dame community and rallying support for the Core Council.

“The Core Council absolutely and endlessly appreciates the support of the student body and the increase of support we see on a yearly basis,” Velazquez said. “We look forward to seeing people at the events and welcome all students to support [the Core Council] in an environment where everyone can feel welcome, especially LGBT students.”

The week’s first event, an Ally Pledge and Day of Silence Banner Signing, will take place today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at both dining halls and LaFortune. Students will have the opportunity to sign pledges and banners until Wednesday.