Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pride at Norwich

Norwich University, here in Northfield, has long been known as a leading military school. I believe there is some competition between Norwich and West Point over which is the oldest military college in the country. If I recall correctly, West Point is older but Norwich became a degree-granting institution first.

Anyway, if you live in or around Northfield you know about the military tradition of the Corps of Cadets, and if you live in Vermont you may know of some of Norwich's other, less traditional, programs. For instance, for many years Norwich has offered a program in Peace Studies, now known as Studies in War and Peace, which is not what you picture for the red-meat military crowd. Norwich also hosts the annual Colby Symposium, which attracts military writers from across the country.

This year, however, is a major departure: next week Norwich will be observing its first Pride Week.

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Question, and Allies Club (LGBTQA) will be hosting its first ever Pride Week at Norwich University March 26-31.

Highlights of the week include a keynote address by Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan and remarks by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin at Norwich’s first ever Queer Prom on Saturday, March 31.

In conjunction with community partners such as Outright Vermont and RU12 numerous discussions and awareness-raising activities are planned.

There will be six days of events, a day for each color of the LGBT flag with each color representing a LGBT issue or theme, such as red for AIDS awareness and green for allies.

“The purpose of this event is to express and demonstrate equality throughout the Norwich community, along with the public, in order to promote membership in the NULGBTQA and to educate the public on challenges and issues faced by members of the LGBT community,” said Joshua Fontanez, NULGBTQA president and a senior member of the Norwich University Corps of Cadets.

The NULGBTQA made national headlines with its first meeting occurring on Sept. 20, 2011, the day of the repeal of the military’s ban on open homosexuality, commonly known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

“The NULGBTQA is the first ever LGBT Club on a military campus, and we have had local, statewide, and national attention from members of West Point; the Governor of Maryland; the Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Outright Vermont,” Fontanez said. “Departments across campus and myriad members of the Norwich Community are coming together in order to help create Pride Week, free for all.”

The week’s events are sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students; the Student Government Association; the Student Activities Office; the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and Education; the Center for Civic Engagement and Campus Climate Committee; the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs; Human Resources and Title IX; Sodexo; the Office of Student Success and Retention; Norwich Christian Fellowship; Residential Life and the Infirmary.

Throughout the years that opposition to the Vietnam War got ROTC removed from many university campuses there were many who argued that this was a mistake, and that integrating ROTC into mainstream academic life was essential to keeping military values in line with the liberal values of society as a whole. Norwich deserves a lot of credit for doing this.

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