A group of Columbia LGBT students, allies, and administrators traveled upstate for several days of discussion and community building last weekend. break Participants in this year's LGBTQ Leadership Retreat, held at Frost Valley camping grounds in Claryville, N.Y. from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8, focused on evaluating interactions within the queer community and with their allies. The trip was organized by Lea Robinson, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Will Simpkins of Barnard's Office of Career Development, and Joyce Lewandowski of the College Activities Office, as well as student leaders. "The goal of the retreat was to get all of the student leaders together with some of our advisers and sort of learn more about leadership and about ways that we can improve the queer community on Columbia's campus," Anna Steffens, BC '10, said. Groups that had members in attendance included Columbia Urban Experience, Queer Awareness Month, Columbia Queer Alliance, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, Gayava, Proud Colors, and GendeRevolution. According to Steffens, around 25 students and several advisors from both Columbia and Barnard were present. A team began conceptualizing the weekend's activities last semester. The goals of the retreat included the promotion of queer empowerment, exploring diversity within the LGBT community, working on leadership skills, and offering an environment to discuss participants' individual identities. "We really tried to focus on just talking about our identity ... individual experiences, what it was like for us here," Bryan Reid, a board member of the Columbia Queer Alliance and CC '10, said. While the discussion did touch on individual experiences, it primarily emphasized ways to improve leadership skills and bring the University's queer communities together. "We talked more generally about making sure that we're all good, accountable leaders," Steffens said. "Ways that we can improve our programming and to be better allies to other groups and communities." According to Anna Ziering, CC '11 amd a board member of Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, students came to represent their individual views as well as the groups they belonged to. She added that the participants in the discourse emphasized the importance of making queer students more comfortable on campus. Ziering said she hopes to compile a Columbia and Barnard queer resource guide that would be distribute by next fall's new student orientation. She said the guide would include "queer-related questions like 'What's your favorite queer TV show? Queer-themed class? Queer event on campus?'" and more general questions about campus and academic life. While there have been other retreats in the past, this year's was the first one in several years. "We talked a lot about institutional memory, making sure that the stuff we do will be carried on in the future," Steffens said. "We talked about all the stuff we are doing now and passing it down ... figuring out ways to get people and keep people involved." Reid also highlighted the significance of a continuing legacy. "We definitely energized a lot of people," he said.
Columbia Spectator Staff