Published in The Rebel Yell issue 11/15/2007
Bell bottoms, Crocs, heroine chic and platforms were just a few of the fads students at the Spectrum meeting Nov. 7 wished never happened in 2007 fashion culture.
Spectrum is the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and straight-allied organization on campus. It strives to give all students a safe place to go, where they have support and acceptance from fellow students and staff.
“[Spectrum] provides a safe space for students to gather and find a place where they can feel safe and welcomed in their own community,” said Jerica Turek, the faculty adviser for the group.
According to the organization’s website, Spectrum started in the 1980s but was on and off throughout the years. During the past eight years, however, it has been going strong. The group saw its highest turnout in 2001, when it had 40 members. Since then, membership has dropped. Last year, there were only five members on the club’s roster, Turek said.
At the last meeting, approximately 20 members were there. While most of them were students, there were a couple staff workers as well. There were five males and 14 females – people from all over the county with different origins, ethnicities, interests and majors. Some were older and some younger. But they were all there, united and feeling comfortable and safe in Spectrum’s environment.
Spectrum is not only devoted to providing a safe, social environment for students and staff, it is also committed to informing the UNLV campus about the LGBT community by positively participating in UNLV traditions, planning educational events and having social gatherings.
Jaime Roberts, a 20-year-old Asian studies major and active member in Spectrum, has had the opportunity to attend other Spectrum-like groups around the country but said this one is different.
“It’s not just about getting together for social hour like other organizations are. [We’re] actually working together to bring awareness to the community,” Roberts said. “It’s not just about getting information out about coming to our club, it’s about LGBT awareness in general.”
In past years, the club has been able to plan events for the entire student body to attend. They have had family picnic days, bowling nights, holiday celebrations and a tradition of planning annual drag shows.
This year, however, they have not planned many events. The drag show was canceled due to derogatory reactions during the last show. People in the audience were saying inappropriate things and were being too provocative, Turek said. “Although it is a bit of a freak show, it still needs to represent the LGBT community is a good way.” However, Spectrum members hope to be able to bring back their tradition in the next few years.
Although they were not able to plan many events this year, Spectrum members have participated in UNLV events and have joined with other organizations to spread awareness.
The most recent event, Take Back the Night, gave them an opportunity to speak to many students on campus who did not know about Spectrum.
Take Back the Night is a movement against sexual assault and abuse. Roberts said this event gave Spectrum members the chance to talk about LGBT people experiencing these problems.
“We have the same problems that straight people do,” Roberts said. “Not many people hear about a gay man being abused by his partner or a woman being beat up by her girlfriend. The awareness isn’t there.”
Spectrum has also been involved in National Coming Out Day and the Guess Who’s Gay event, which had one of the biggest turnouts for an LGBT event.
The group has also partnered with other organizations. They are working with Student Diversity Programs and Services and with the Human Rights Campaign.
Randy McCrillis, assistant director of Student Diversity Programs and Services, said they would like to have more events during LGBT Awareness Month. They are also advertising training for Safe Zone, which is a program that after completed means the person is LGBT-friendly and safe, and are also promoting Leader Shape, a diversity leadership retreat, to Spectrum members.
The group recently reunited with the HRC. Chris Ho, a UNLV alumnus and representative from HRC, attended the last Spectrum meeting to inform the members about HRC and update them on the status of HRC’s fight for LGBT rights in government.
The two organizations, used to work together, however, the communication between the two groups broke down for unknown reasons. Ho wants to reunite the two groups again. “It is my goal to merge the two groups for partnerships or a co-op to feed off each other.”
When the two groups are in partnership, it is a positive thing for both. Because they would work together, Spectrum members would be able to volunteer to help with HRC-sponsored events like PRIDE, National Coming Out Day and others, and because HRC is a national organization, Spectrum would attract more people. More LGBT people would trust that it is a safe place, and it would be more diverse, Ho said.
Spectrum members agree that the biggest issue facing LGBT people on campus is not discrimination or hate, but rather the fact that the community and the issues they face are overlooked
“I’ve never really had a problem [on campus], but it’s almost like we’re ignored,” said Doug Hanks, one of the group’s student coordinators.
“Yeah, there’s not really negativity—just silence,” Angelina Fernandez, the other student coordinator for the group added.
This year Spectrum is trying to get involved in more events where they cannot be ignored or be silent.
UNLV AIDS Awareness Week is the next big event Spectrum will get involved with. There will be events taking place Nov. 25-30. Spectrum members have been encouraged to volunteer at the event, which will give them more exposure to UNLV students and staff who are not aware of them or the issues their community faces.
Spectrum reaches out to anyone who is interested in diversity and is culturally open. They specifically reach out to LGBT people, however, straight people are also invited to join the group.
Spectrum has two more meetings this semester, one on Nov. 28 at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and the other Dec. 5 at the Student Union. Both begin at 5 p.m. For more information on the organization visit clubs.unlv.edu/SPECTRUM/.