Ring Offends Transgender Community
As you may know, OUTspoken is a Major Student Organization on campus that advocates and educates for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) community. OUTspoken seeks to create an environment within the RIT community that is inclusive to all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions, and to eradicate heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia within the Rochester area.
The issue of Reporter Magazine that was distributed on 12.10.10 contained a transphobic remark. In the “RIT Rings” section, Reporter published the following statement:
“If you are going to be a crossdresser, at least have the decency to shave your beard. Mini skirts and mustaches don’t work. Just sayin’.”
A cross-dresser is a person who sometimes wears clothing that is generally associated with a different gender than that with which the individual regularly identifies. This is only one subsection of the larger transgender community. Transgender is an umbrella term for a person(s) or behavior(s) with tendencies that deviate from typical gender roles. Partially because the transgender community at RIT is large enough to be seen but small enough not to be heard, there is an ever-present inclination to ridicule trans-identifying individuals. Recently, when a new transgender group began to hold meetings, almost all fliers publicizing their meetings were vandalized. Additionally, OUTspoken is familiar with multiple incidents of verbal harassment that the trans community endures on a daily basis. There have even been instances where transpeople have been impenitently disrespected by RIT faculty and staff. Although RIT has been accepting of the gay community, it seems that the trans community on campus has not been shown the same level of respect.
OUTspoken respects the right of Reporter Magazine to publish content that they deem acceptable. We also understand that not everything the Reporter publishes represents the views of the entire staff. However, we believe that an organization as influential as the Reporter has a responsibility to the RIT community to print responsibly. When insensitive remarks about the trans community are printed, it sends a message to every reader that it is okay and even appropriate to ridicule an already oppressed minority, affirming an already malignant trend in aggressive behavior.
While we realize that it may have, unfortunately, been natural for your organization to overlook this error, we do believe that some attention should be paid to its correction. Though it did not say anything negative about transitioning, the quote sets an unfair expectation for those individuals; it ranks their progress, and it ridicules them for not being able to present as they would like to instantaneously. Seeing as how a number of transgender people have been personally offended, though none of them were singled out, it would seem prudent to apologize for publishing the antagonistic remark, and perhaps for being regrettably unaware of its indecent nature.
In Search of School Spirit
At the beginning of Winter quarter, Student Government decided to kick off the new academic cycle by having Dr. Destler and members of SG dye the Campus Center fountain orange in order to promote school spirit. As far as I have heard from close friends, few were aware of this event, and personally, I find it both stupid and a waste of time and resources (not to mention that the chemicals involved in the dyeing do not really strike me as environmentally friendly). My sentiments were not of a lone wolf, for in that week's issue of the Reporter, the editor expressed a similar opinion. Some say they overheard Dr. Destler sneer at the Reporter for dismissing the dyeing of the fountain as a mockery, whether this is true or not, I would challenge the administration to ponder to why some of us see this as ridiculous.
I have been at RIT for almost five years, and as an international student, I have always been amazed at the multitude of student clubs, the leadership opportunities and the many chances to make a difference whether varsity, club or intramural. However, I have never been infected or allured (to use a less harsh word) by the idea of school spirit. I sometimes think it is cultural because in my country, the traditional idea of school spirit seems more of something you see in an American movie. Nevertheless, as I look back at my own experience and the different moments of 'school spirit,' I believe that part of it is that the administration is trying to apply a traditional formula to a non-traditional school.
I will elaborate my theory and let you make up your mind later. RIT is no traditional school, which is both what makes us great and stereotypes us. While some schools rally under a sport to showcase their sense of pride, RIT does not truly possess that. Even though some will argue that we have hockey and speak highly about our participation in the Frozen Four tournament, the truth is that we experienced a fluke. I should state that in no way I am trying to undermine our team or last year's great accomplishment; I simply want to make the case that the traditional view of school spirit is where the student population rallies behind their varsity sport to show pride and support for their school. Here is where administration has become near-sighted.
I believe that school spirit is a combination of two things: the pride one has for his or her institution, and the desire to give back to the community behind this institution. I believe varsity is a piece of school spirit, but not the entire pie. If anyone wants to see school spirit in its raw form, go to the Campus Center and visit the different MSO offices that are there. You might be pleasantly surprised at the different programming events CAB does, the sweet beats humming from WITR, and the many advocacy efforts from organizations like Global Union (GU) and AALANA Collegiate Association (ACA) are spearheading. These are organizations with students who volunteer and dedicate their time to give back to the institution, the RIT community, and in some occasions, even the Rochester Community. The examples I could give would make this a more dense reading from Pulse Happy Hour hosted in NTID, to A Capella groups such as Encore and 8-Beat Measure, to community service and environmental awareness clubs, and many more.
I like to take the Orientation program as an example of true school spirit. The program gathers 180 students, plus faculty and staff, who dedicate a part of their time to create a meaningful first impression for parents and first-year students. Here, we see a group of energetic and passionate students who come back early to school, sometimes leaving jobs, internships and co-ops, to help first-year students have a smooth transition to college life. Some cynics will say that they return because you get paid, but if you do the math, the amount paid versus the hours dedicated to training, preparation, and orientation activities would put you well below the minimum wage of some developing countries. Here is a group that shows pride for its institution and gives back to the community.
To conclude, I want to challenge the view we have of what school spirit is and the way we try to force it into some traditional notion of what it should look like in RIT. Often, I hear Student Government encourage and even try to reward students with prizes if they wear orange and brown on Fridays. Once again, the system fails to understand that even monkeys can wear orange and brown (not to mention that a good amount of people do not have class on Fridays). Next time, rather than having a challenge where Dr. Destler dyes his hair, why not challenge the man himself to attend a cultural event on campus, a drag show or even a CAB event. I will say it again, I am not trying to bring down our varsity groups, I even encourage going to some of the games, especially the women teams who tend to be underestimated but put on great games. My point is that we have focused so narrowly on our varsity teams that we fail to imagine the possibilities that lie outside. For a school that prides itself in being innovative, we should probably take our own advice if we really want to see an increase in school spirit (shouldn't every day feel like Imagine RIT!). I know some might criticize my opinions, but I welcome different views to come up with better solutions. To those who wish to be stuck in their ways, I feel they will miss the sea of opportunities that could lie ahead.
Diego Guzman Valle
Industrial Engineering, Fifth Year
Director for Internal Relations for Global Union
Bringing Branding Back Home
I love all the things RIT tries to do around here to better the campus as a whole, but hate that they hire outside companies to do it... We have very talented people graduating every year into design, marketing, and all these fields. Why are seniors not designing all the spaces, bus stops, being built on campus, as well as the brand for our school? We know what RIT is about and we well be working as professionals doing just what RIT is hiring people to do a year from now. Design collaborative? Senior projects? Even Graduate Projects. Be the leaders in innovation RIT. Let us design our own school.
A comment left on a Facebook regarding Reporter's poll on rebranding.