The Hilltop Monitor had a chance to speak with the cabinet of QUILTBAG, a student organization at William Jewell College that promotes LGBTQ+ awareness and education. The members of cabinet are President Morgan Allen, a senior Oxbridge music and religion and culture major; Vice President Bruce Rash, a senior international relations major; Secretary Trevor Nicks, a senior biochemistry and ACT-In major; and Treasurer Sam Fulte, a sophomore biochemistry and ACT-In major.
Below is a transcript of our conversation, edited only for length and clarity. Each respondent will be indicated by their initials. Allen will be “MA,” Rash “BR,” Nicks “TN” and Fulte “SF.”
Can you tell me what QUILTBAG stands for and why you changed the name from SAGE to QUILTBAG?
MA: QUILTBAG stands for: queer/questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual and gay or genderqueer.None of us on this particular cabinet were involved in the name change, but Brett Stone, who was president two years ago, and was also president last year, had expressed when he ran for SAGE cabinet that he wanted the name to be more inclusive to the community we had here on the campus, and so he had heard the name somewhere else and found it to be the perfect fit for what we wanted to do as a club, and he implemented it last year with his vice president, Annie Murphey.
BR: The name seems like such a minor thing to a lot of people, especially people outside of the community, so it can seem a little bit like a superfluous change, but “Straights and Gays for Equality” very directly excluded my identity, my sexuality. I think the name change corrects the problem with inclusivity.
MA: I also think the old name was, unintentionally or not, exclusive toward transpeople, which is something Jewell has seemed to struggle with in the past when trying to be an inclusive campus with identities.
What are your goals, both for this year and long term?
TN: one of our primary goals is-we started off with a high number of people coming to QUILTBAG, especially compared to past years, and we feel like we are creating a good place on campus for people to come and talk. So to keep that going is a goal: keeping our attendance high.
MA: Even more than that, when we met as a cabinet we set out four major goals for the club. One was to increase LGBTQIA visibility on campus, to be a resource for students on campus. And that’s kind of how we decide what issues to take on each week at meeting, and also outside of our meeting time. One of our goals was to take QUILTBAG outside of just our meeting and to student life issues and not just be a club, but to be a resource. So we are going to keep working on Annie Murphey’s project form last year, which was gender-inclusive housing. The other was to revisit the language in different student forms and to increase our activity on campus, hosting events, hosting things like bi week, doing PEACE week in the spring, but also doing Trans Day of Remembrance. We want to bring these identities, which are a part of our campus culture, to the campus in a way that is inviting and invokes discussion.
BR: Also, looking at the broader picture, being involved with [Student Senate] and the rebranding process, just making sure that this campus is seen as a place that is welcoming. We’re really working on little changes along the way as we also work on larger transgressions, the institutional ones, so short-term, long-term goals, they all tie together.
MA: We’re trying to choose our battles wisely, we want to tackle the things we can get done this semester instead of pushing them off. If we know we have a way we can do it now, we can hopefully make changes that first-years right now can see and potential students can see.
What are you most excited about this year?
SF: I’m pretty excited that QUILTBAG is already more active than it was last year. Everyone on cabinet seems very committed to what they want to do and I’m very excited to see our presence increase on campus, which was one of the goals we just talked about.
TN: It kind of builds on what I said earlier, which was “people.” Attendance continuing to be high at meetings means we’ve successfully created a community outside of meetings. So letting people know that we are here for them. Coming on campus my first year, I was uncomfortable with who I was, I didn’t know who I was, and if there was someone they needed to talk to, I would hope that we can create a community and a network through campus.
MA: The thing I’m most looking forward to is our new relationship with Student Life in regards to making first-year students more comfortable and feel like they are in an environment where they are safe to come out or just question their identity in general. And I’m very happy with the RA program we’ve just implemented, with RAs in every dorm who are confidential allies and members of the community who are ready to talk to first-years who are dealing with issues that pertain to the LGBTQ community and to get them plugged in and provide them with resources.
BR: I’m very excited that attendance was so high for both meetings and hopefully the third meeting, especially as we start to have more events, if the four of us continue to do as much as we can while we’re here. Our time is really limited so building this community and building a group of people that are comfortable, a group of people that are passionate, that’s really important. When you’re creating safe spaces when you’re creating an environment that is friendly, toward people of marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities, you can’t do that with just four people, you have to build a community. And we have such a great start to that, and I’m excited to see that continue and I hope it does.
TN: And hopefully at the end of this year, we’ll have created some inertia that enables the group to pull forward and have even bigger attendance next year.
MA: And in regards to special events and stuff, we have like a few really exciting things to talk about. Number one is PEACE week, which we do every year, but this year we’re trying to expand what we do with PEACE week and make it an event that the whole campus can get involved in. A way for them to get educated and start a discussion. And we’ve also talked about getting involved with a youth group in the area. We’re also doing really fun stuff-we want to go see “Funhome” and in April we are going to Oklahoma. Oklahomans for Equality is having a big gala fundraising event, QUILTBAG has been invited to have a table there and be a part of the ceremonies and kind of see a deeply-rooted community and talk with other universities at that event about clubs like ours.
TN: Also there’s an oSTEM conference in December, also known as Out in STEM. It’s an organization that puts on a science specific conference where LGBT+ scientists and researchers come from all over the country. Schools come and recruit. And NOGLSTP, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, are having a gathering in March in Boston and we’re going to try to apply for a grant for travel money for that. It’ll be super cool.
BR: And we’re always coming up with new ideas and new things we can do.
MA: And we’ve got Student Life on our side and the administration behind us, and they’re excited about the changes that are happening, which is so nice, and a change from what I think a lot of us dealt with in high school.
Are there any challenges you are facing right now, or any concerns?
BR: Sometimes there is a disconnect between generations. We’re more in tune with current issues facing the community at large and it can create kind of a disconnect. Some things that are very clear to us can get lost in translation and that creates some problems, like ones we were having with the housing forms last year. And most of the time these are small hurdles, and Student Life is almost always on our side with things like these and that’s been great, it’s been really refreshing. They’re genuinely listening when we say something to them.
MA: The other issue is just keeping students interested. It’s hard for any club on campus, especially one that is based around social change. We’re working towards a lofty goal. We still face issues every year with groups that come to campus that actively discourage the LGBTQ community, we still face issues of cisnormative or heteronormative speakers who come to campus and just assume everybody is straight. So, you know, our main goal is to always take any obstacle and come at it from a place of peace and love. It’s still a challenge for us to compose ourselves and present ourselves on campus-we want to get to a point where the community here at Jewell is ready to have really tough conversations.
SF: Come to meetings! There’s a 90 percent chance that there will be popcorn at every meeting.
Anyone who wants to reach QUILTBAG, can email any member of the cabinet or communicate with the group via Facebook.
QUILTBAG meets every other Wednesday at 7 p.m.