Stories have been told of LGBT groups at Ball State University existing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but the first LGBT student organization to file for official recognition by the University did so on October 18, 1974 and was officially named the Muncie Gay Pride Coalition. The group was officially recognized as the Gay Activists Union (GAU) on January 10, 1975 by the Student Association and by the Student Welfare Council on January 21, 1975.
The GAU provided social functions and started the Speaker Panel Program that still exists today. Many of the ideas originated by the GAU – like a hotline, awareness events, newsletters, informational library, bibliography of supportive and unsupportive books and information, brochures, films, speakers, and conferences – were eventually implemented in the 1980s and 1990s.
It is interesting to note the relative ease of recognition that the GAU received at Ball State and the fact that an LGBT student group existed in a fairly conservative area so recently after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Clearly the GAU was ahead of its time and was already paving the way for the LGBT student culture at Ball State.
As time passed, the goals of the GAU changed as membership graduated. Eventually, the lack of university support and decrease in membership almost erased what little LGBT student culture there was.
Using the same charter, GAU became the Ball State Gay Alliance (BSGA) on April 29, 1983. BSGA continued the Speaker Panel Program and also held various social events, speakers, and films. The group held an annual event called Springfest, an informal cookout with a guest speaker. Springfest heralded what would eventually become Coming Out Week.
In honor of the female membership, BSGA officially changed its name to the Ball State Gay and Lesbian Alliance (BSGLA) on January 19, 1986. They planned the first Gay Awareness Days (formerly Springfest) from March 18-20, 1986. Events for the three-day event included Speaker Panels, a film called “Pink Triangles,” and guest speakers from the Indiana AIDS Task Force.
Due to difficulties within the membership of BSGLA and a lack of support from the University, the membership officially disbanded in 1988. It was felt that the group could no longer serve a purpose for the LGBT student community. Through this time, the work of a group of dedicated student leaders kept the Speaker Panel Program alive. The lack of a socially supportive advocacy organization had a devastating affect on the LGBT population across campus.
After the suicide of a gay student on campus, a small group of students once again decided that some sort of student group was desperately needed at Ball State. A needs assessment survey was administered to many LGBT students in 1989 and the survey indicated that students wanted a supportive organization that was social in nature. The Lesbian and Gay Student Association (LGSA) was created in March of 1990.
A small group which met bi-weekly and tried to have “no huge responsibilities and aspirations,” the LGSA continually grew and soon realized that its scope needed some expansion. The University was still not addressing the needs of the LGBT student population, so in the Spring of 1992 LGSA restructured itself once again to encompass aspects of being a social, supportive, educational, and advocating group; and once again, the changed their name to remain inclusive of its membership.
The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay Student Association was the strongest organization to date and made sweeping changes across campus. Continuing the time-tested Speaker Panel Program, Coming Out Week, and the weekly social meetings, LBGSA pioneered a telephone hotline called SafeLine with the financial support of the Vice-President for Student Affairs.
Rallying supportive faculty and staff, SAFE On-Campus (Staff And Faculty for Equality) was created. These allies were identified as supportive and understanding. After a training session by the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, a long-time supporter of the group, SAFE members received a sign to be displayed by their door or office space which recognized them as a confidential ally of the LGBT community.
LBGSA and SAFE On-Campus helped to convince the Ball State administration to include sexual orientation in the anti-harassment policy of the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities in 1992.
The first office space ever was allocated to LBGSA in the spring of 1994. In July of 1995, Ball State hired a paid staff advisor n the Office of Leadership and Service Programs to assist the organization’s board run the administrative side of programs. The official advisor also allowed LBGSA to receive funding from the Student Activities Fund.
Programs and events were strong in the group. Finally, the organization and its leaders were regarded with respect and even admiration across campus.
In the spring of 1998, after a collaborative effort between Student Senate and LBGSA, the University Senate was finally persuaded to pass a measure which included sexual orientation in the university’s anti-discrimination clause. This ensured that admission, employment, and promotions could not be denied based on sexual orientation. This third attempt to pass such legislation was met with extreme acceptance by the University Senate. President John Worthen, who in years passed said he would not carry such an amendment to the Board of Directors, passed the bill into University law.
In a push to obtain more diversity in the Student Senate, a permanent senate seat was given to the organization in the fall of 1999. LBGSA was a strong organization on the University front that was influential in campus politics and now in a position to help other groups succeed.
But because of a decreased interest in weekly meeting topics, a historically troubled reputation, and the incredibly long name that was not as inclusive as the membership, leaders in 1998 decided to change the name of the organization one more time.
The name Spectrum was chosen because it encompassed the organization’s wide range of services, events, and membership; and a new logo and marketing strategy were created with the help of an outside agency.
Change is inevitable. The leaders and membership of this organization are always evolving to the culture and climate around them. One thing has remained true, though: the more involved people are, and the more people there are getting involved, the stronger and more inclusive the organization can be in serving the needs of all students.
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