Hi everyone and happy Pride month! GALA-ND/SMC is a very special organization to all of us, and it’s my absolute honor to volunteer my time as Chair in efforts to serve all our members. I’m equally honored to serve with a wonderful and talented group of people that make up the rest of the Officers, Board, and members across the world.
GALA exists to promote the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people within the ND and SMC communities, and true to that principle, we are pleased to announce the kick-off of an internal inclusion initiative for GALA! We’ve had many discussions about our priorities for being more inclusive in the last few months and below, we’d like to share some of the initiatives we’ll be tackling this year. We’re excited to make this organization even better in 2019! If you have any questions, concerns, ideas to share, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
Ram Ballesteros ND ‘09 – Chair
For the next year, our strategy will be divided into three efforts:
- Standardizing Inclusive Practices
In recent years, our society has been grappling with important aspects of identity and how they impact our lives and organizations like ours. We acknowledge the historical reality that women, people of color, and other minority groups, like LGBTQIA+ people ourselves, have been structurally excluded from places of power. How organizations respond to this reality is important: Lambda Legal has taken on several cases for the rights of transgender people. The National LGBTQ Task Force launched actions to protest the detention of LGBTQ immigrants. And Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays changed their name to the acronym “PFLAG” to be inclusive of all gender and sexual minorities.
We as the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College (GALA-ND/SMC) would also like to do more to ensure that we are inclusive of the diverse voices that make up our community. To this end, the Officers have worked with our Board on an Inclusion Initiative (link available to members when you log in to the GALA site), starting with changing our name from GALA to Pride Alumni to affirm that this is a space for for everyone, particularly everyone who identifies as a gender and/or sexual minority.
Through this change, we hope to better recognize everyone that the organization represents. This will kick off a stronger commitment to inclusion broadly by our organization, and will begin the process of implementing the transgender inclusivity recommendations developed by Bryan Ricketts and being led by Morgan Benson. But first, we need your input!
- Conducting Member Outreach
We want to hear from you! What do you think about the name change? About the Inclusion Initiative? As Officers, we’d like to start soliciting more active input and engagement from our members and execute initiatives with more of your involvement and feedback. So, we have planned three opportunities for you to share your input:
- We will host two virtual town halls to connect live and answer questions and comments. Please see here for more information on how to connect for members.
- June 11, 2019 at 8pm ET
- June 23, 2019 at 2pm ET
- There is also comment page (available here for members) for you to provide written comments anytime before June 30 at 11:59 pm ET.
- Finally in July, we will host a member vote on the name change. Our constitution requires ⅔ of dues-paying members to approve any changes, so please take this opportunity to change your membership status if your membership has lapsed so you can participate in this important vote.
Your voice matters to us and we want to learn from what you have to say about our group and how we can better serve everyone in our community. We plan to communicate back responses to your questions and comments in a newsletter following the comment period.
- Connecting with Current Students
This initiative is in large part based on active feedback from current students, and we believe supporting current students is one of the most important things our organization can do. So, we will be strengthening our connections with current students! In the past, we have done things like supporting an end-of-year queer dance (which the University has not supported) and a rainbow flag drop during VP Mike Pence’s visit to South Bend.
We want to do even more, so we plan to start an Associate Board of undergraduate and graduate students from both campuses with whom we can regularly engage. Our ideas to engage include sponsoring programs, providing mentorship, reviewing resumes, and giving career advice – and we welcome your ideas!