Maryville College’s Pride Club is cultivating a thriving LGBTQ+ community once again on campus after struggling to maintain the group over the previous year. Following last year’s internal conflicts along with the COVID-19 pandemic, new members have decided to rework the structure of the club and reform the community for this year, regardless of the challenges that have been sprung at them.
Previously, the club had a President, Vice President, and other members in a hierarchical system of organization. However, due to disagreements, issues with power dynamics and the limitations that the pandemic imposed on club meetings in general, the club dissipated over the course of the 2020-2021 year.
Several then-freshman were looking for a way to get involved with Pride, not realizing it was essentially non-operational, so they emailed Dr. Nancy Locklin-Sofer, the club’s faculty advisor. At that point, Locklin-Sofer was surprised that anyone had interest in participating in Pride at all given the circumstances. After talking with the interested students, they decided to recreate the club on their own terms this year.
Sophomores Jenni Cate Rhodes, Crow, Mackenzie Nicholas and Clara Smith (who has chosen to be known by this alias due to personal safety concerns) set up a Zoom meeting with Locklin-Sofer and SGA Vice President Maddie Taylor to come up with a budget for this year. From there, these students decided to form a “board” of members to direct the club. The board consists of Rhodes, Nicholas, Crow, Smith and two other sophomores, Grace Brandl and Ember Wilson.
The club directors have worked together to reform the club, draw interest back to Pride and restructure meetings. With these changes, they have maintained the goal of furthering inclusivity and diversity in the MC community through weekly meetings and special events.
The meetings now consist of an open discussion centered around one topic. So far, the club has had three meetings, each held at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays. The club’s first meeting on Aug. 31 drew a crowd of over 30 attendees, leading the directors to gather more chairs to accommodate the turn out.
The meetings have been taking place in the Tent 2 classroom between Cooper Athletic Center and Copeland Hall, with alternate plans to meet in Anderson Hall during inclement weather. This has helped bring more people to the meetings as COVID regulations are less limiting in outdoor settings. However, they are still working on making sure that they are accessible to those who might not be able to attend in person.
Although a more detailed plan of this year’s events is still “in the works” according to Smith and Brandl, the club has held or participated in two events thus far. First they hosted a table in the Clayton Center for the Arts on Aug. 23 to talk about diversity opportunities with students. On Sept. 14, they partnered with the Center for Campus Ministry to host a Pride Chalk Walk where over 50 members of the MC community on the sidewalks as the CCM conducted a service focusing on religion and the queer community. Later in the semester Pride will partner with Alpha Psi Omega (APO), the theatre and drama club, to produce “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at MC.
The club and its supporters did see some backlash from individuals in the community after the chalk walk, with messages opposing the inclusivity of LGBTQ+ students being written on the sidewalk outside of Pearson’s Hall in the late evening of Sept. 16. This matter is currently being handled by administration, but the messages yielded another day of students and faculty gathering to add more chalk art to the sidewalks around the CCM, Pearson’s and the Covenant Stone.
The members of the board see the response as a sign of unity and believe the club will add members and be strengthened by the events.
In a statement on the club’s Instagram, Chair of Communications, Crow, said, “…we will stand strong together against any sort of hate and fight back with our love… I am so proud and happy of the beautiful community we have created and continue to build.”
Despite the challenges that have arisen, Pride Club has worked past several issues to bring life back to a club that had fallen to the wayside last year but left a gap in campus life.
“We just really wanted it to be a community — a place where everyone can feel welcome,” said Brandl.If interested in the Pride Club, meetings are held weekly on Tuesdays at 5 p.m.
You can also contact any of the board members to get more information or be connected to the new Discord group chat. MC Pride can also be found on Instagram @maryvillecollegeprideclub.