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LGBTQ group chooses name, advisor

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The student organization formed to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) student issues will begin the academic year with a new name and an advisor. 

Student body president Alex Coccia said several students who were involved with the 4 to 5 Movement, the unofficial AllianceND club and other organizations voted to name the new group “PrismND.” The Office of Student Affairs has since approved the decision. 

“The fact that [the name] reflects quite a spectrum and a range of interests and passions and identities, I think is something that people will identify with and appreciate when the group gets off the ground,” Coccia said. 

Christine Caron Gebhardt, director of the Gender Relations Center (GRC), said other universities use the name “Prism” for their LGBTQ student organizations. The GRC and student leaders added “ND” to the name of Notre Dame’s organization to make it easier for the University’s students to identify the club as a fixture at Notre Dame.

Sophomore Connor Hayes, who helped to launch PrismND, said the name is intended to be all-inclusive, instead of specific to people who identify as LGBTQ

“I think relating to the Catholic identity of [Notre Dame] and backgrounds of people coming from religious environments, [some] people don’t really want to identify as gay or lesbian, so … we were just going for a name that was very inclusive,” he said. “We wanted this name to be one that can last and kind of become a brand.” 

Maureen Doyle will work as the advisor for PrismND in her capacity as assistant director for LGBTQ student concerns. Doyle, who was hired over the summer, previously worked as the general manager of Legends of Notre Dame. She will begin her new job Sept. 2. 

“My challenge that I’ll put forward to the group is I’d love to see them think long-term and what kind of a legacy they want to leave behind within this first year, what kind of traditions they want to start,” Doyle said. “They’re setting up the success of the group for the next 20, 30, 40, 50, however many decades.

“I really want them to keep the big picture in mind as they go through their first year and to think beyond just what they want to accomplish in the next 12 months, but what they really want to set up for future student leaders within the organization.”

Doyle will serve on the advisory council on LGBTQ issues to Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding. She will also work with the GRC’s FIRE Starters, who are peer educators that foster dialogue on issues of identity, gender and healthy relationships. 

PrismND hopes to receive approval for its bylaws by Activities Night on Sept. 3, Hayes said. Coccia said the organization will then elect its leadership and begin to host regular meetings. 

“The first year, especially the first semester, is just getting its feet off the ground, building the relationships that the student leaders need to build with staff members, with administrators, with the organization members,” Coccia said. “And then starting to kind of see what events we can do toward the end of the fall or the spring to really get our name out there and do the service … that we’ve been emphasizing as a particular component of the group.”

Gebhardt said she hopes PrismND will build relationships with other student organizations, the GRC, Campus Ministry and additional University departments.

“We realize this is about who we are as a community, and [PrismND is] one facet in which students can feel welcomed and loved and supported on this campus and that we will all work together to try to create the community that Notre Dame can be and I hope will be,” Gebhardt said. “We want the student organization … to emerge from the ideas and the interests and the hopes and dreams of the students in collaboration with all of us across campus.” 

Hayes said one of his goals in developing PrismND is to create a more visible LGBTQ presence on campus. 

“I hope that there’s some educational programming, maybe on a very formal, bring in a speaker point, but also kind of working with parts of the University, like the Gender Relations Center, to come up with educational programming for the student body, like going into dorms,” he said. 

PrismND will host social events and will serve as “a focal point for the LGBTQ community on campus to kind of come together, and also to address concerns,” Hayes said. 

The organization’s first event will be a picnic Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Center’s lounge and patio. 

Sophomore Bryan Ricketts, who also helped to begin PrismND, said he thinks the new student group will foster a smoother relationship between the Office of Student Affairs and LGBTQ students and their allies.

“In the past, the relationship has been one of winners and losers,” Ricketts said. “The relationship that we are hoping to create in this organization will be a much more productive one on both ends.”

Doyle said the formation of PrismND was “a great move for the University.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to interact with some of the students who were instrumental in helping over the summer, and they’re all really excited about it,” she said. “I think they have a big challenge in front of them, but it’s one that they’re definitely ready for and excited about. “

More information about PrismND is available at www3.nd.edu/~prismnd and on the group’s  Facebook and Twitter pages.