Seeing life through PRISM: RU students strive for inclusivity
Kenzi Herndon, PRISM president and senior theatre major, and Michelle Guinyard, director of community life and PRISM adviser, during RU Fest.
by Emma Saddler
Social Media Director
Rochester University introduced a new student life group in fall 2022 in an effort to engage and support LGBTQ students in the RU community.
PRISM stands for People Respecting Individuality, Sexuality and the Marginalized. Kenzi Herndon, PRISM president and a senior theatre major, said the group's goal is to "spread awareness around issues facing LGBTQIA+ students and to foster a community that honors and celebrates our unique identities."
Michelle Guinyard, director of community life and PRISM adviser, said although the group’s first priority is to support the community of LGBTQ students on campus, the group also seeks allyship and community involvement by any students on campus.
PRISM consists of about seven to 10 students who meet on a regular basis and participate in events hosted by the group, such as movie nights, T-shirt making and game nights. Herndon said the group is still “getting on its feet, '' but she is optimistic that more events will occur in the future.
Guinyard said, “I hope that at the very least from what students take away from this, whether they identify or not as LGBT+, is that there is a space [for them]. There is somewhere to go.”
The RU Diversity Committee strives to ensure that all students, regardless of sexuality, race or status, have a voice at RU. "As followers of Jesus, we at Rochester University are committed to love, to justice, to peace and to mercy. Following the example of Jesus, we are committed to loving and valuing every human as a bearer of the image of God," according to the committee's web page.
Guinyard said including LGBTQ people is important, particularly for a Christian university, since some religious groups shun LGBTQ people. “With us being an ecumenical institution, we are realizing that at the end of the day, LGBTQ people are not animals to be gawked at, but they’re human beings and they have the ‘imago Dei’, the image of God, in them just like all of us…They deserve to feel safe in Christian spaces," she said.
Dr. Brian Stogner, president of RU, introduced an “open table” theme to the RU campus in spring 2022. “One of those key principles is the theologically and socially profound notion of the Lord’s Supper as an open table,” he said. “Because Jesus is the host, his hospitality is open to all who are willing to come.”
Consistent with that heritage principle, Stogner said RU will strive to exemplify the spirit of the open table. “It will be this welcoming, loving inclusivity that will help us to establish a credible voice to speak into this polarized and post-Christian world.”
Herndon offers herself as a resource for students to talk about issues involving LGBTQ if they aren’t ready to talk to someone with more authority. She recommends contacting the Trevor Project at (212) 695-8650 for crisis situations. Additionally, students can find more resources by contacting the Studen Care Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students can report discrimination or harassment at RU to the Center for Student Life or by completing the RU Incident form.