Gay Straight Alliance petitions for establishment

Editor-in-Chief, News Editor

A new club on campus is preparing for approval on the afternoon of April 6. The Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, has spent the last few months fighting to become an official campus club, and, now, according to Director of Student Life Kimberly Crawford, the club is looking at a “when, not if” situation when it comes to being approved.

“We are not really sure why [previous applications for club establishment] were passed down the past three years,” said Student Government Association Vice President Pearl Oppenheimer.

At the beginning of the school year, members of the soon-to-be official GSA approached Counselor Evonne Jones to help complete the steps for GSA’s approval. After speaking to the administration, the students were told that the administration turned them down for being too exclusive, according to Oppenheimer.

According to President James Mellichamp and Chaplin Ashley Cleere, Piedmont’s affiliation with The National Association of Congregational Churches and The United Church of Christ encourage Piedmont to only approve groups that include everyone.

“I think there were some misunderstandings,” said Cleere.

In the past, groups wanting to exclude others that petitioned administration for establishment were turned down. According to the unofficial GSA club, it is not just a group for one type of person. Members said that everyone, no matter one’s sexual preference or gender identity, is welcome to join.

“It is very inclusive,” said acting president of GSA and senior healthcare administration major Ebony Reeves.

“This is not just a gay group. This is a gay, straight alliance,” said GSA member theatre major Tamara Morris-Thompson.

By being a club at Piedmont, the group can ask for funding and transportation to and from different events as well as organize different events for students and advertise on campus. By not being a recognized club, members are only able to invite others to meetings by word-of-mouth and personal invitations; additionally, all trips and events are solely funded by the members.

According to Crawford, the group also did not meet the current criteria for becoming an official club. To become an official club, a group of students must have some sort of constitution or bylaws, which outlines how the club operates. For example, the constitution would need to include how to elect or appoint leadership roles as well as what happens if someone steps down in a leadership role. The group also would need to identify an advisor, which can be any full-time faculty member who volunteers. Once that document is ready and an advisor is identified, the group then submits the bylaws or constitution to the Student Government Association, which votes to approve the club or not.

However, Joanna Hansen, a member of GSA and a freshman music major, said that many members of the group, including the upperclassmen, did not know about this criteria until last semester.

“They were provided, I believe, last fall with information that every group that is interested [in becoming an] organization is provided with,” said Mellichamp.

Members of the group have sat down with Crawford to create and revise their constitution and bylaws in order to prepare for approval. Currently, the group is waiting to be approved during the April 6 Student Government Association meeting. If the club is approved, Hansen said the group hopes that being able to advertise will bring more individuals to join the club.

“It is important continue our fight [for rights] even if the battle is over,” said GSA member and sophomore environmental science major Tatiana Burkett.

For more information about the GSA or to become a member, email [email protected]