LGBTQ organization remains divided, circulates petition

A member of Coral Gables United Church of Chirst walks with members of his congregation down Ocean Drive in South Beach during the 5th annual Pride Parade held in April 2012. File Photo

Amid celebrations for Coming Out Week, a series of events that commemorate the coming-out experience, members of the LGBTQ student organization UPride remain divided over the organization’s name change.

The organization’s executive board changed its name from SpectrUM to UPride in early August, angering some of the members of the group.

Members like sophomore Tyler Katz who were against the name change have created a petition, which can be found online at the “No Organization Without Representation” Facebook page.The online petition has garnered more than 70 signatures, and hard copies are being circulated. One hard copy had about 150 signatures.

Katz, who has been a member of the organization since fall of 2013, said the group is divided.

“It’s a schism between … members,” he said.

Despite misgivings about the situation, there are no plans to form a separate organization. Members will be hosting a meeting to discuss and vote on the issue, according to senior Shelby Juarez, who is a member of the organization.

Juarez said that it will be held before the end of the month, and that the date will be announced on the “No Organization Without Representation” Facebook page. The meeting is not being organized by UPride E-board members, but they are welcome to attend.

SEE ALSO: SpectrUM becomes UPride, raises red flag

UPride President Jacob Rudolph said that SpectrUM was “somewhat of a social clique,” and that it did not address other types of LGBTQ culture.

“The purpose of the name change was to rebrand the organization, and create a new vision,” Rudolph said.

Juarez and others feel that that the decision to change the name without consulting members raises questions about member representation. 

Though the decision to change the name was unanimous among the E-board, Rudolph admits that they should have asked the members first. He said there are no plans to change the name back to SpectrUM, and that the organization is going to create committees to better involve members in the decision-making process.

Some of the students who opposed the name change protested outside of the organization’s first two meetings of the semester. Sophomore Morgan Owens, another member opposed to the name change, said that no more demonstrations are planned because they “made club meetings a more hostile environment.”

It has been suggested that the situation is preventing the club from achieving its goals of LGBTQ equality and acceptance.

“I think UM should focus … on how we can improve the safety of our fellow students and faculty,” said Louise Davidson-Schmich, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

A recent nation-wide study of college campuses conducted by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 20 percent of LGBT faculty members and students in America feared for their safety on campus.

According to Rudolph, UPride’s current goal is to move forward and continue to provide support for LGBTQ students. Among those efforts are the events for Coming-Out Week, which included a candlelit vigil and a transgender speaker.

Rudolph also wanted to reassure people that the group has not changed.

“The things that they [members] need are still here,” Rudolph said. “And the support that they need is still here, and that we are committed and dedicated to the idea of inclusion.”