The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium, of which Hobart and William Smith Colleges are members, held its first conference focusing on fostering positive change for LGBTQA faculty, students and staff on New York Six member campuses this spring. HWS Area Coordinator Chad Freeman presented at the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium Spectrum Conference, hosted by consortium member Hamilton College. Students Kelly Wendt ’14, Michelle Poulin ’15, Carly Petroski ’15, Carla Gaynor ’14, Kelly Punch ’16, Leah Segal ’16, Hannah Webster ’16, Virginia Dewees ’16, Danielle Stokel ’15 and Lucia Cardone ’16 were among the 150 representatives of the six campuses who attended.
One of the goals of the conference was to help students, faculty and staff make connections with peers on other campuses. Wendt, who has been involved with the Colleges’ Pride organization throughout her four years at William Smith, found it did just that.
“The conference was an absolute blast,” Wendt says. “We brought 10 students with us and had the chance to meet students from the other New York Six schools. It was so helpful to talk to them about what struggles the LGBT communities face on their campuses, and hear about our similarities and differences.”
The keynote speaker was transgender advocate and actress Laverne Cox, who currently appears on the critically acclaimed Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.”
Freeman’s presentation was part of the conference’s Voices from the Margin segment, during which members of the LGBTQA community who also feel marginalized within that community presented on various topics. Freeman discussed being a person of faith and being queer, including what it means to find a church home.
“It was very interesting to hear all the different perspectives,” says Freeman, noting speakers included intersex and transsexual individuals, members of the community “you don’t hear from often.”
Participants also discussed the Campus Climate assessments, how the New York Six member campuses matched up and areas in which they could improve. Another key discussion was about the fact that students have multiple identities in addition to their identity within the LGBTQA community, such as being part of a particular race, religion, socioeconomic status, or having a learning disability.
“We found we all experienced similar issues as colleges,” says Freeman. “It was a phenomenal conference and I highly recommend members of our community take part in it next year because there is a lot to hear and learn.”
The New York Six Consortium consists of Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, St. Lawrence University, Colgate University, Union College and Skidmore College. The consortium seeks to facilitate collaboration among members in fulfilling educational missions, serving the public good, and enhancing options for students, faculty and staff.
This conference was free to all Hamilton community members and New York Six students, with support from the New York Six Consortium and Hamilton College.