While Bellarmine University officially celebrates Pride in January when more students are on campus, June offers another opportunity to recognize the community’s momentous work to ensure that campus is a welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
“Celebrating Pride month is an important way for us to celebrate our LGBTQ+ identity and to acknowledge those who have paved the way for our community, remembering those we have lost and continuing to advocate for equality,” said Patrick Englert, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and co-chair of the President's Advisory Board on Equity and Inclusion. “Bellarmine is comprised of students, faculty and staff of many diverse genders and sexualities and Pride month provides us the opportunity as we are called to do by Catholic Social Teaching-celebrate the intrinsic value and dignity of our community.”
Students involved in BUKnighted, a registered student organization (RSO) for LGBTQ+ students, said offering ways for the community to safely connect and flourish despite the pandemic has been especially rewarding this year.
“Given our specific role in supporting, educating and celebrating Queer members and allies of the Bellarmine community, the morale, comfort and inclusivity and enjoyment that we helped provide was invaluable during a year of stress and uncertainty,” said Jordan Stacy, a BUKnighted leader and biochemistry major who graduated this spring.
BUKnighted provided more than 40 programs ranging from socials, educational sessions, discussions and community engagement this Fall and Spring. In January, the group hosted the second annual Pride Bash, a dance celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.
The group, which has about 75 members, also thoughtfully presented virtual programming throughout the pandemic.
“BUKnighted approached programming with intentionality as they recognized the importance of providing nuanced space for a range of students,” said Englert, who served as the advisor for BUKnighted. “Some students who were at home during COVID-19 may not have been out or felt safe to share their identity with their families or are not accepted at home.”
Twice a month, BUKnighted hosted Inside Out, a program that invites LGBTQ+ students to come together to discuss important issues.
“These events promote understanding, as hearing stories and insights from a diverse group of people is the best way to foster a deeper-rooted empathy and perspective, as well as it recognizes the intrinsic value of every individual by celebrating our differences and educating each other in a safe and comfortable space,” Stacy said.
The group gathered monthly, too, for community service projects with the Louisville Youth Group. Students sorted donations, organized the trans closet, deep cleaned the space and organized the educational library. Once COVID-19 restrictions permit, BUKnighted plans to get involved with mentoring youth within the organization.
BUKnighted was also one of the top-earning student groups for Day of Giving this year, garnering more than $4,000 from 28 donors.
“Our students’ exemplary work this year affirms our shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dr. Donald "DJ" Mitchell Jr., Bellarmine’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. “We’re striving to live out our social justice mission and BUKnighted is leading by example.”
Last summer, Bellarmine earned four out of five stars in the Campus Pride Index, receiving the highest rating of any private liberal arts institution in Kentucky. The index rates the university’s support for the LGBTQ+ community through policies and practices in student life, health, residence life, safety, academics, recruitment and retention.
Bellarmine provides direct services to LGBTQ+ students through the Office of Identity and Inclusion. In recent years, university initiatives have included designating at least one gender-neutral bathroom in most buildings and enabling community members to log their chosen name and pronouns into campus systems.
Additionally, Bellarmine celebrates National Coming Out Day and has a Lavender Graduation recognition for LGBTQ+ students, who can receive rainbow commencement cords.