By C. Aileen Blaine
After a two-year hiatus, the LGBTQ student organization YSUnity is making its return to Youngstown State University once again. With its revival, its executive members believe it will once again serve as a safe space for students.
Amanda Fehlbaum, associate professor of sociology, is a co-adviser of YSUnity. She said there’s a waxing and waning of interest in YSUnity that happens to many other campus organizations.
“We’ve been trying to get enough concerted energy together to where we have enough folks who want to be officers, so that we can get YSUnity off the ground again,” Fehlbaum said.
She said the pandemic affects how well students can participate and communicate their interest in the organization, but she hopes interest will increase.
“We are, as a campus, prioritizing the experiences of more marginalized communities. Saying, ‘You matter, we like that you’re here and we support you,’” Fehlbaum said.
Steven Miller, a fifth-year telecommunications major, is the organization’s current president, after serving as the secretary.
“In the future, I want to reach out to, say, full-spectrum community outreach, and some of the organizations around in the Valley,” Miller said.
He said he hopes to increase student enrollment in the club to re-establish it as an official student organization.
Brian Wells, academic adviser for the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, serves as the organization’s co-adviser. His history with the group is rich, as he’d served as vice president and president of the then-called LGBT organization in the late 1990s.
He said the campus is in need of the organization’s return.
“YSUnity did a marvelous job of creating allies to the LGBTQ community over the years,” Wells said. “Many missed out on the impact that YSUnity could have had on their future careers as well as their own sense of self as an ally to the community.”
Wells said he hopes the future leaders of YSUnity will reopen the doors that may have closed for LGBTQ students on campus.
“My hope is that our students will once again see the group as a source of hope ensuring our campus is a place where all feel welcome and supported as they excel in achieving their goals,” Wells said.
Miller also said YSUnity means something special to him.
“Just knowing that there’s people that support us,” he said. “It’s always held a place in my heart, knowing that.”
In the past, the organization was involved with Coming Out Day, Trans Day of Silence and an annual drag show open to the community. In addition to the contributions to events and activities, the organization advocated to include the “gender identity and/or expression” language to YSU’s non-discrimination policy.
Wells and Fehlbaum will speak in a virtual LGBTQ symposium Nov. 6, hosted by the Mahoning Valley juvenile court and the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board. The event will discuss resources available within the Mahoning Valley as well as clarify misconceptions of the LGBTQ community.
For students interested in more information regarding YSUnity, they can visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages.