September 4, 2011

LGBT CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT : Canisius College


As a progressive and accepting generation, those aged 18 to 29 are more open to equality for those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Generation : (WH)Y ? will be highlighting progressive institutions of higher learning in the United States that are paving the way for acceptance, in addition to helping queer students and their allies feel safe and secure.

I spoke with Suraj Seth, the President of Unity, which is the gay-straight alliance of Canisius College - A Jesuit institution in Buffalo, New York.

Jeffrey Hartinger:  What are some of your biggest annual events?

Suraj Seth:  National Coming Out Day is one of the biggest events of the college. With the support of fellow classmates, faculty and administrators we are able to celebrate acceptance and embrace who we are. It is a time for all LGBT students and faculty to take notice of those who have fought for the rights we have today, and offers those who are not yet out a glimpse of the growing acceptance and rights we have today.

What do you have planned for this year?

We are excited to have influential guest speakers to come to Canisius to discuss a variety of issues concerning the LGBT community. In the past speakers have included; Betty DeGereres, Dustin Lance Black, Brian Sims, Ian Harvie, and several cast members from MTV's The Real World.

As a Catholic school, what are some of the road blocks you face?

This year we intend to continue the traditions of National Coming Out Day and world AIDS Day.  In addition, we keep working to make the campus safe and welcoming for LGBT students and allies, while expanding the relationships with the LGBT community in and around Canisius.  At Canisius we are fortunate to be a Jesuit institution which is welcoming and supportive of people of all backgrounds and walks of life. We do have some limitations regarding some LGBT events, but we hope that with each coming Class these limitations will be reconsidered by the administration.

How receptive is the student body, and faculty and staff to the organization?
Being one of the largest clubs on campus, UNITY has a great relationship with the other clubs. There is a mutual respect between UNITY and the other clubs as well as the campus ministry at Canisius. The support of the Campus Ministry is greatly respected and appreciated. They truly honor and display the values of the Jesuit community.

Buffalo City Hall

How is Buffalo in regard to LGBT equality?

Buffalo is a very open and accepting city. Every June a Pride Parade is held in the city. There is a gay district and gay proud neighborhoods which includes several gay bars and stores. There is also a progressive, LGBT friendly newspaper in the city, known as Artvoice.

For LGBT high school students, what would you say to them to describe the acceptance at Canisius in a nutshell?

As an E-Board, we were surprised by the level of openness and acceptance displayed at Canisius. For high school students, Canisius is somewhat of a safe haven for LGBT students and their allies. Compared with some high schools, Canisius is a place that offers a safe and supportive environment for students to come out. We are fortunate to have an accepting community where you can be who you are.

Unity can be contacted at Unity@Canisius.edu

If your institution or Alma mater is deserving of "LGBT CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT," please contact Jeffrey at Jeffrey.Hartinger@Gmail.com.

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