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Advocating for LGBTQIA+ Equity and Inclusion at the SUNY SPECTRUM Conference

Members of the Student Assembly Executive Committee standing in front of a sign that has a rainbow of flowers and the word "SPECTRUM" in golden balloon letters

Students who perceive that their college campus is more inclusive and welcoming of sexual- and gender-minority people have lower odds of being victims of sexual assault, according to a study led by the University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health and published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. In a complementary study, researchers found that some minority groups are at considerably higher risk for sexual assault in college than peers in majority groups. Published recently in the journal Prevention Science, this is among the first analyses to explore how populations with intersecting minority identities have varying risks of sexual assault victimization.

The second annual SPECTRUM Conference was held this July to combat these issues and educate faculty, students, and administrations on prevention and training in response to a variety of sexual violence that is imposed on the LGBTQIA+ students. SPECTRUM was held over a three-day span and brought together over 800 attendees. Sessions like “Beyond the Letters: The ABC’s of working with LGBTQ Survivors”, gave the tools and resources to attendees to bring back to their campus so that they can be more prepared with situations they may face as campus leaders. There were dozens of sessions held over the two days, and the rooms were always packed no matter the subject title of the session. Some of the sessions included “Getting BI: Unpacking Biphobia and Bi erasure and Creating a Culture of Inclusion,” “Working with LGBTQI+ & HIV Affected Survivors of Sexual Violence,” and “Balancing Safety & Respect When Interacting with Transgender Individuals.”

SPECTRUM had intentional and impactful meals featuring panels and speakers. Some highlights were the panel “Nine on IX” and “HIV/STI Prevention and Treatment Services Experts.” “Nine on IX” had nine of the nation’s leading higher education experts engaging in a conversation on the past and future of Title IX and the impact of the judicial and regulatory environment on the application of Title IX to LGTBQIA+ students. The HIV/STI Prevention panel had experts on the HIV/STI epidemic and the panelists had insights on ways of handling those situations and resources to do so.

Another impactful plenary was the keynote address by LGBTQIA+ rights advocates Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins. They shared their story about unsuccessfully seeking to purchase a cake from Masterpiece Cake Shop for their Colorado wedding, a case that reached the Supreme Court last year. Opening remarks came from Elizabeth Cronin, Director of the New York State Office of Victim Services and the honorable Letitia “Tish” James, Attorney General of the State of New York in this lunch plenary.

There is a sense in some quarters that life on campuses and in the community has become safe and easy for the LGBTQIA+ students and members. While there has been profound progress protecting this community, there is still significant work to be done. SPECTRUM’s annual conference will continue to fight for the progress that we continue to make on our SUNY campuses and communities.

Written by Cheyanne Matulewich, SUNY Student Assembly Constituent Services Manager, SUNY Cobleskill

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