An Oregon State student is organizing a campus-wide campaign in response to the recent suicide Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, whose sexual orientation was exposed by a roommate.
Craig Bidiman, the current president of the Memorial Union, wants to ensure that the OSU campus offers a welcoming and supportive climate for students of all sexual orientations and identities, and that fear and prejudice do not result in the death of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.
With the support of a number of student organizations and the OSU administration, Bidiman has created the “Campaign for Understanding.” It’s an effort to get OSU students and others to sign a pledge (on Facebook or in person) to never discriminate against someone due to their identity. Bidiman hopes to get 5,000 signatures by Oct. 11, which is National Coming Out Day.
“We hope to create a campus in which anyone and everyone feels welcome and free of fear of being discriminated for who they are,” he said. “When I heard about Tyler, my heart sank.”
Bidiman’s own recent experiences coming out as a bisexual man have made him especially aware of the bias faced by young people as they begin to discover and then discuss their sexuality. Bidiman is a Christian, and his family had a difficult time after he decided to come out.
He doesn’t regret coming out, even though his parents are still struggling with the concept. “I needed to come to terms with who I was,” he said.
Bidiman wants to make sure that young people on campus who are in the midst of their own struggles find support.
“I want to hold our campus accountable,” Bidiman said. He said there still can be both visible and overt prejudice against LGBT students, and some students make derogatory comments without even intending to do so.
“I hear people say ‘That’s so gay.’ You’re making that term a put-down,” he said. “You’re turning someone’s sexual identity into something negative.”
Bidiman is working with a number of student-led organizations including the MUPC, ASOSU, the Pride Center, SLI, ISOSU, Team Liberation and many others. So far 630 people have signed the pledge on Facebook, and more are signing pledges on campus.
Bidiman plans to visit classrooms, set up a table in the Memorial Union quad and do everything else he can to spread the word about the Campaign for Understanding.
“My goal is to prove that our campus is a beautiful, welcoming place. No one should fear who they are.”