November 21, 2013

Student Assembly Launches Initiative to ‘Spotlight’ Groups

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The Student Assembly communications committee launched a new initiative, called Organizational Spotlight, Thursday in an effort to recognize an outstanding organization on campus every week. For its launch week, the S.A. recognized Athlete Ally.

The Cornell chapter of Athlete Ally, which was founded in August, works to create a climate of acceptance between Cornell’s athletic community and the LGBTQ community on campus.

“We wanted to bridge a gap between the LGBT community and the athletic community to make them environments where both communities feel more welcomed, safe and respected,” said Atticus DeProspo ’15, founder and president of Cornell’s chapter of Athlete Ally and a member of Cornell’s varsity soccer team.

The S.A. chose to recognize Athlete Ally because it addresses an important campus issue that has a history of being ignored, according to Ian Harris ’16, vice president of public relations for the S.A. and co-chair of the communications committee.

“We wanted to support and recognize Athlete Ally for taking a really big step in an area and in a community that traditionally has been kind of left behind and hasn’t had a lot of work done,” said Jevan Hutson ’16, S.A. LGBTQ liaison at-large.

Harris said Organizational Spotlight is intended to encourage cross-organizational discourse.

“Any group on campus that promotes tolerance and respect for one another or really tries to build community and to bridge differences –– that’s an an exceptional group,” Harris said. “We’re looking to highlight groups that are really making exceptional changes, like building the Cornell community.”

The Organizational Spotlight initiative was also formed to help less visible organizations receive recognition for the strides they are taking, Harris said, adding that the committee hopes Organizational Spotlight will help Athlete Ally gain more campus-wide visibility.

“There definitely could be more communication between groups, across groups, within groups, so basically the Organizational Spotlight is a good way to bridge together and share best practices. … Hopefully, it spurs some dialogue,” he said.

DeProspo said that getting the word out about the organization is key for Athlete Ally’s continued success.

“We feel that the most important thing right now is to show that there are allies in our community and to show that we’re a welcoming and safe environment,” he said.

Apart from increasing its visibility, the organization wants to pinpoint problems so it can begin to take action, DeProspo said.

“[We’re trying to] recognize the current culture of the athletic community, so we can address the issues that need to be dealt with, such as homophobia and transphobia, moving forward,” he said.

Although Hutson acknowledged the work ahead of Athlete Ally, he said is excited about what the organization can add to the Cornell community.

“Obviously Athlete Ally is not going to solve everything in the next two months. But it’s about taking those first steps,” Hutson said. “Creating a safe space for LGBTQ athletes would be unlike the majority of universities in the United States.”