Shane L. Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, spoke at Ramapo’s Eighth Annual Diversity Convocation in Friends Hall on Tuesday, calling on the school to take action before tragedy strikes-not after.
“Today’s speaker represents the kind of community builder we should all emulate,” said Senate President Mark Ellebracht.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Emporia State University, and later earning a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration, Windmeyer went on to become a national leader in gay and lesbian civil rights, advocating especially for rights of college students on campuses across the country.
His work has been featured in The New York Times, Rolling Stone and TIME Magazine.
“In order to create change we have to speak and we have to come out about our lives regardless of merit,” Windmeyer said.
Windmeyer began the convocation by explaining a bit of his college experience, including coming out to his fraternity brothers.
“A bunch of straight men gave me the courage and the pride to be who I am today and I make sure everywhere I go I acknowledge that because I think we all have power to give to others,” said Windmeyer.
He was also impressed with the Ramapo students’ explanation of their college experiences, having had an opportunity to hear a sample of Ramapo’s Diversity Monologues before speaking.
“Everyone I’ve seen today has told me, ‘I’m so sorry it’s raining-it’s such a beautiful campus,’ and I’m used to going to place where it’s raining…but what’s fascinating about that comment is what I got to see today at lunch-it’s the real beauty of your campus,” said Windmeyer. “I got to see your students and hear their voices and to ultimately see what makes your climate. It’s not the trees, it’s not the fancy buildings or the new nursing building, it’s truly your students’ voice-their perceptions.”
Windmeyer then walked the audience through the main goals of Campus Pride, beginning with OutSpoken, a clearinghouse of resources for the LGBTQ community founded in 2001, as well as a camp for LGBTQ leaders.
“I’ve been very fortunate to find people with passion-passion to make the world a better place, passion to broaden our discussion beyond just LGB into intersectional work,” Windmeyer said.
Windmeyer praised Ramapo for their score on the Campus Pride Index, which is Campus Pride’s way of rating colleges biased off how friendly they are to the LGBTQ community. Out of a 5.0 scale, Ramapo scores a 4.0, but Windmeyer believes there’s always room for improvement.
“It shouldn’t take a student feeling unsafe, unlawful, before we start doing the right thing,” said Windmeyer.
Reminding the audience of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after being recorded having a romantic encounter with another man in 2010, Windmeyer stressed that we need to take action before it’s too late.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done and that’s one of our biggest challenges,” Windmeyer said.