Prism seeks club status despite past obstacles
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This fall, the leadership of Prism, an unofficial LGBTQ+ and ally group, will apply for official club status, hoping to become Westmont’s first official LGBTQ+ focused club. Advocates argue the club would serve as an important resource for students and will encourage discussion. However, their application faces some hurdles in the community life statement that have stopped previous applications by LGTBQ student groups .
Prism’s mission statement, provided to the Horizon by board member and senior Micah Anthothy, outlines the groups’ hope that “...everyone at Westmont, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, become more empathetic to people whose experiences differ from theirs, and leave Westmont better equipped to address LGBTQ+ issue[s]...[and] how they relate to both traditional Christianity and the world at large.” The clubs preliminary statement of intent for Prism includes: increasing awareness of LGBTQ+ student needs, addressing LGBTQ+ issues, and providing a platform for LGBTQ+ students to speak about their experiences. In a recent interview, Prism board member Gianna Miceli explained that “Prism has informal meetings off campus and has resources for students looking for affirming churches and other organizations in the Santa Barbara area.”
Although Prism does not have official club status, the leaders of Prism have been informally organizing gathers and meeting with school administrators to address LGBTQ+ issues at Westmont in accordance with the group’s mission.
Club leaders cited a recent removal of language disavowing “homosexual practice” from the Community Life Statement as a source of hope for their club application. Until this last year, the Westmont Community Life Statement explicitly stated that “the college will not condone practises which Scripture forbids. Such activities include ...homosexual practice.” The exact definition of “homosexual practice” was not included in the Community Life Statement . Additionally the statement still mandates that students who marry “abide by the commitment to lifelong heterosexual marriage.”
Donald Scherschligt, who graduated with the class of 2015, was the most recent student to reach out to members of the administration in 2013 with a club proposal for a group similar in format to Prism. In an phone interview with the Horizon, Scherschlight said that he was “encouraged not to apply and instead run the group unofficially” by members of Westmont administration who he requested remain anonymous. Scherschligt remembers being told that his club would have been “the most radical yet proposed, because it was inclusive of side A”
The language of “side A’ commonly refers to a position within Christian thought which holds that gay and bisexual people can enter into same-sex romantic relationships and transgender people should be able to live according to their gender identity. This is contrasted with side B in which gay Christians are expected to remain chaste. Prism accepts both members who hold side A and side B positions as long as member agree both respect one another positions.
Two weeks from now, both Edee Schultze, vice president of student life and Angela D’Amore, director of campus life, have agreed to be interviewed by the Horizon to further explain the history and future of LGBTQ+ matters at Westmont college, both declined to be quoted for this article, citing their unfamiliarity with Prism as a group.