A few weeks ago, while walking through Briggs Hall, I saw a poster for a trans support group. I was really excited because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to hang out with other trans people and talk about our unique struggles. I contacted the listed leaders all pumped up, only to find out that the poster was left from a few years ago. Now, aside from the fact that it should have been taken down, it started bothering me that the group had been canceled, no doubt due to lack of interest. It bothered me not only because it was canceled, but because I had no idea it was something that had potential to be brought back. It got me thinking: how many groups and activities have been canceled due to a lack of interest in any given year? And what if there was another year that really needed that group but just had no idea that it existed? If you don’t know about a past offering, there is no way that you could see if interest was back for it.
The unique problem I see here is that sometimes Lawrence can feel a little like the Wild West when it comes to groups and activities on campus. No one is told where to find offerings online, so most of the interest is generated through posters scattered sporadically. You just have to jump on the opportunity whenever you see a poster, and many posters, apparently, can be from a few years ago. Not only that, but there doesn’t really seem to be a system through which we can view old programs and no system to ask for them back. What if they had gauged interest this year and found out that there were a lot of trans people on campus wanting an avenue for support? They have no way of knowing that though, with nobody having any idea that it even existed. On top of that, there is currently no easy way that I know of to suggest a program, or even to bring an old one back—and not just a club program, but an actual one run by a teacher or counselor. To sum up the issue, there is no visible and easily accessible system for getting a quick rundown of offerings on campus, there is no way to know about past offerings and there is no way to suggest or bring back a program.
Now, I could very well be wrong about us not having a way to see old programs and bring them back. However, there was no apparent and simple way for me to find that information. It is not so much then about whether or not it exists, but about how accessible it is. So, seeing as we have a problem here, I would like to propose a solution. First and foremost, there needs to be an updated and easy-to-find list of all the programs available, including clubs, but also support groups or extra activities. It needs to be all in one place as a master schedule, but also sortable, meaning I could elect to look up just clubs or just support groups. If one of these already exists, I propose that it be more often referenced and talked about in the hundreds of school emails that we get. Second, past programs and clubs that used to be ongoing, i.e. not past events that happened on a singular day or night, should be included on the same list. They should all have basic descriptions of their former function on campus.
Third, and most important, there should be thorough interest-gauging done at the beginning of the year. The system that I would propose for this is as follows: every year, a master list of university-run groups could be sent out to the student body in a survey. Students then pick their top three or top five, whichever is most convenient. Then, those events or groups should be started up for the rest of the year, slotted into different terms. Additionally, should a student feel that there is a real need and interest for a vital group or event that was not part of their top selections, there should be a petition system that pushes the group through with enough pledged members or participants. All of this should be noted in a master email with a master link to all of these.
Now granted, this is a lot of work that I am proposing, and maybe there is already a similar system in place. But it is clearly not working properly if there is one, because I have no idea where to even look. Ultimately, I would like to see gauge of interest in a trans support group to possibly bring it back, and I worry that more very useful programs have simply disappeared into the ether because no one knows they existed. What I am proposing is a lot of work. However, I think there could be a lot of benefits. If we can learn quickly and easily what is happening when and for what, I really do think it would help lessen the anxiety about missing out on something cool we just never knew about. And sure, maybe a lot of people wouldn’t fill out the survey and maybe a lot of people wouldn’t even pay attention to the email. But I also think that that does not mean we should not give it a try. All I know is that I would have really appreciated it, and I think other people on campus would have too.