EIU Pride: Safe space for students

Katja Benz, Student Government Reporter

EIU Pride, an Eastern Registered Student Organization, offers a safe space for students on campus regardless of their gender or sexual identity.

The purpose of the EIU Pride is a community that hopes to make students feel at home and have at least one safe place on campus.

“To work for the rights of the community to express their sexual and/or romantic orientation, as well as their gender identity freely and openly and to draw the community closer through education to denounce heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia and other oppressions,” according to the RSO website.

Students, both present and prospective, find out about EIU Pride early, according to Tanya Willard, the advisor of EIU Pride, the director of new students and family programs and coordinator for the Center of Gender and Sexual Diversity. 

Prospective and present students can find out more about EIU Pride by visiting their table at PantherPalooza, going to events hosted by EIU Pride and more.

“We start reaching out to them early and often and saying here are the resources that are available to you,” Willard said. “We talked about the [Gender and Sexual Diversity] Center, we talked about the DiBianco community and we talked about pride. So we have access to those folks that we can reach out to early and often. When they come to campus for orientation. The GSD Center has a table set up at the [PantherPalooza], the resource fair. We participate in Open House events through the admissions office. And so as part of the materials of the GSD table, we also include information about ,so folks know about that and whoever is sitting at the table, whether it’s me, the [graduate assistant] or a volunteer, we always talk about Pride.”

Willard said everyone is welcome to join EIU Pride regardless of their orientation or identity.

“Everyone is welcome here, regardless of your gender or sexual diversity or romantic orientation, and this is a safe space,” Willard said. “We respect each other here. If you are experiencing disrespect or harm in some kind of way, please let us know we will address it. And so it starts out by basically saying like, intolerance is not tolerated. And so that sends a really clear message to folks. I think about what kind of culture the vibe of Pride is.”

The executive board has a president, vice president, secretary, action director, social director and publicity chair.

Pilar Barrio Sanchez, a graduate student studying strategic communication, is the president of EIU Pride.

Lucy Ade, a junior interpersonal communications major, is the vice president of EIU Pride.

Austin Vaughn, a freshman bassoon music performance major, is the secretary for EIU Pride.

Theo Edwards, a junior psychology major, is the action director of EIU Pride.

Cayleigh Rath, a junior chemistry major, is the social director of EIU Pride.

Killeen Reidy, a junior English major, is the publicity chair for EIU Pride.

Willard asid everyone on the executive board of EIU Pride really strives to make this a safe space.

“They are all really invested in making Pride the best possible experience and so every Pride meeting, they kind of go over upcoming events,” Willard said. “The action director makes everyone aware of things that are happening on campus or around the world as it relates to LGBTQ issues. And so there’s an educational component to it. And then there’s always a social activity, that is part of the meeting, and sometimes that is a game night, sometimes it’s arts and crafts, sometimes it’s an icebreaker, sometimes it’s a random activity. So the meetings are short, they’re about an hour, but they’re packed with a little bit of education. You get to learn a little bit about what’s going on in the GSD or LGBTQ community. Plus you get that social interaction, so you get to meet other folks on campus that maybe you wouldn’t interact with outside of those pride meetings.”


Katja Benz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].