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Gay, lesbian students seek out tolerance

Yasmin Shirali/Pioneer
Photo Illustration

What is it like being gay and “out” in college?

According to Diana Kardia, Michigan University researcher, college is much less prejudiced than high school campuses.

Both faculty and students are expected to be aware of the importance of tolerance and respect for diversity in sexual orientation.

President Paul Sechrist said OCCC is set up in that way.

“OCCC is committed to making sure that our non-discrimination statements are not just words but are reflected in how we treat each other on a daily basis.”

The statement adopted by the college and located on page 1 of the catalog is very specific: “In addition to the federally protected characteristics of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, handicap, disability, or status as a veteran, OCCC is committed to a diverse and inclusive educational environment, respecting diversity in religious belief, political affiliation, citizenship or alien status, sexual orientation, and material status.”

Sechrist said this philosophy is important.

“This statement not only guides our behavior, it is an expectation of everyone on campus.

“If anyone feels that they have been, or are being, treated in a discriminatory manner, they should let a college official know.”

Camryon DeCarlo, former president of the Gay Straight Alliance said while that may be the official statement at OCCC, many students ignore it — at least in her experiences.

“I had heard through friends that OCCC is a pretty liberal school,” DeCarlo said. “However as the former president of the GSA, I know that there is still a lot of hate or lack of understanding towards the GLBTQ (Gay Lesbian Bi-sexual Transgender Queer) community at OCCC.

“I know this first hand when fliers that were put up were torn down and replaced by invitations to Bible studies. I have heard people yell ‘faggot’ at GSA events.”

One of the club’s sponsors who wished to remain anonymous said GSA tries to break down the barriers.

“GSA is Gay Straight Alliance and our job as a club is to provide an open place for all students but also an avenue for recreation, education, and advocacy.”

Other students say they haven’t faced any discrimnation on campus.

Nick Potter, photography/business major, said he is comfortable being gay at OCCC.

“I don’t openly wave a banner,” he said.

“I feel like it’s my business.If someone asks or it comes up in a conversation, I will definitely tell the truth, but it’s not the first thing I say when I introduce myself.

“I don’t think there are any issues that really concern me. I think O-trip has a very safe environment as far as being gay goes. I haven’t felt or seen anything to suggest otherwise.”

Shane Scott, business major, is another openly gay student.

“I’ve never experienced any discrimination at OCCC,” he said. ”Everyone is pretty laid back.”

Although Potter and Scott have had positive experiences regarding their sexual orientation, one professor who asked not to be named, said he has one issue with being gay at OCCC.

“Only once, in 2001, there was an administrator that used to work here and I happened to be photographed in a local gay newspaper and that newspaper was also online.

“The administrator saw fit to call as many people into his office as possible to point out my photo in the newspaper to stir up some controversy about my sexual orientation.”

He said the administrator asked him not to file a complaint, a request he granted. However, he said, he did ask the administrator to stop the harassment.

“As a man, I said ‘man to man, this has to stop. My sexual orientation is my business and not part of my work environment’ and it stopped.

“I think that you have a couple of options when you are discriminated against.

“You can either attack or find common ground and I always search for the more peaceful aspect,” he said.

Mary Turner, Student Support Services specialist, said “discrimination is against college policy and law.”

Turner said any students who feel they are being discriminated against or harrassed can contact Erin Logan, Student Relations director, at 405-682-7821 or elogan@occc.edu.

“We help students find more effective ways to handle situations and how it impacted them,” Turner said.

She said employees can contact Human Resources at 405-682-7542.

DeCarlo said she won’t let any obstacles get in her way.

“I know that for the most part, despite these small cla-shings, I feel comfortable to be gay at OCCC because, I know that this is something that I just have to go through and its something that I have been through a lot.”