Reflections on SUNY SPECTRUM 2019

Happy summer, friends! Rob here hoping that your break has been full of sunshine, fruity beverages, and REST!

We in the office have been hard at work preparing for the upcoming academic year, and also providing lots of training and workshops to folx in the campus community. Two weeks ago, I was also fortunate to spend several days in Albany, New York for the second annual SUNY SPECTRUM conference, a two-day event designed to specifically address sexual and interpersonal violence against LGBTQ+ students. The conference is hosted by the State University of New York system and brought together over 700 educators and providers from as far away as Puerto Rico. I was joined by Alyce Lew, Staff Associate for Community Standards, Rights, and Responsibilities, and Anila Karunakar, our new Director for Diversity and Inclusion.

There were nearly 50 concurrent sessions offered in total, including ‘When Sex Isn’t Cis,’ ‘Creating Inclusive and Affirming Spaces for LGBTQI+ Survivors,’ ‘The Ripple of Felt Stigma,’ ‘Working Intentionally with International & Queer Students and Survivors,’ and ‘Best Practices in Campus Activities to Support LGBTQIA+ Students.’ The program also included five large-group plenary sessions, including talks from Tish James, the first woman of color to hold statewide office and first woman to be elected attorney general of the state of New York, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, lead plaintiffs in the now-infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case after the shop refused to bake their wedding cake, and Cecilia Gentili, who played Ms. Orlando in the first season of ‘Pose’ on FX.

Alyce, Anila, and I are excited to take some of the great information, strategies, and program ideas we picked up at SUNY SPECTRUM and implement them here in Orono. One moment that will stay with me forever came from the ‘Cake Guys’ when one of them said, “For the first time ever, the Supreme Court said ‘Gay rights are civil rights.’ And that means everything to me. It was never about the cake, always about equality.” I am feeling so energized to continue doing this important work, and I can’t wait to welcome our incredible students back to campus to keep working toward a more inclusive, more equal UMaine.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, Black Bears!

-Rob (he/him/his)

P.S. Check out our Facebook page for photos from the conference!