Social vs. Activism

Some LGBTQ and ally student organizations focus on providing social opportunities to students, while others have a more activist agenda. Is it better to be a social group, or an activist group? Can you be both? How do you balance the two? Can you have more than one group on campus, one social and one activist?

What it all comes down to is what students on your campus want from the LGBTQ and ally group and what works best for the group(s).

Social – On many campuses it is hard to meet and connect with other LGBTQ students, which is why many students rely on the meetings and activities of the student group to fill their social need.  Discussion groups, movie nights, fieldtrips, dances and other events are great ways to make friends, find mentors and even dates.

Activism – There are many student groups that have a goal of changing the world, or at least making their campuses a better, safer place for LGBTQ people. There are times when there is a need for LGBTQ student groups to become activist groups as well as social groups. Some examples of such student activism are:

  • Volunteering with civil rights and political campaigns
  • Lobbying the campus administration to open a LGBTQ Center
  • March in local “gay pride” parades
  • Protesting anti-LGBTQ policies or actions
  • Initiating a letter-writing campaign to support university faculty and staff who are fighting for domestic partner benefits
  • Holding a kiss-in, or chalking the campus sidewalks to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues
  • Join with other campus organizations to protest the war, challenge racist and sexist policies, or to end domestic violence
  • Get involved with Take Back the Night, activities on campus or in your community, it is an important issue, not only for bringing awareness to sexual assault, but also for fighting anti-LGBTQ violence.
  • Have a poster-making party to create posters to raise awareness to post on campus, or carry at protests, parades, etc.
  • Finding a balance – Not everyone in your student group will want to be involved in activist activities, and not everyone will want to be involved in only social activities, so finding a balance between these two elements can be challenging.  Some groups have co-coordinators, one who organizes the social aspects of the group, and the other who organizes political activities.  On some campuses with larger student populations, there is more than one student group, one focuses on social and support activities, the other political.  If you are a leader in your campus student group, make sure you listen to what your group members want.  Make everyone feel included in the process.

What kinds of activism does your student group get involved in?  Does your campus have more than one group to address social and activist issues?  Share your experiences with Campus Pride.

Source: Campus Pride, 2006.

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