By Ana Ruiz Brictson | Staff Writer
Baylor officially chartered Prism, an LGBTQ+ and allies student organization, on Tuesday after beginning its process back in the fall of 2021.
Heber Springs, Ark., senior and Prism president Lor Duncan said last fall, Student Activities had several listening sessions with different members of the Baylor community. From there, four student volunteers were picked to help create a constitution to begin the process of the charter.
Duncan said the team created their constitution and membership agreement to protect students who have not come out yet. Duncan said there were a lot of people involved in the process of chartering the organization, including both students and faculty.
Prism’s constitution on its Baylor Connect page reads, “The mission of Prism serves Baylor University and its students through creating a respectful space that embraces diverse sexual identities (community) focused on continuous learning for the Baylor community, giving voice for LGBTQ+ students to the administration (care), and creating opportunities for all students to access resources through connection, belonging, and education.”
Matt Burchett, assistant dean of philanthropic engagement and senior director of Student Activities, said the chartering process was lengthier than expected.
“As we went through the process, we had a number of different steps to ensure we were meeting the needs of our students,” Burchett said.
From holding listening sessions to forming a leadership team, Burchett said it was a unique situation, though they followed the standard chartering process.
Burchett said one of the key characteristics of Baylor’s mission is creating a caring community grounded on its Christian commitment, leading toward the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“From our perspective, chartering Prism is very much an alignment with creating a caring Christian community for all of our students,” Burchett said.
Prism was officially chartered as of 3 p.m. on April 19.
“It’s a really significant day in the history of Baylor University to charter our first LGBTQ-focused student organization,” Burchett said. “I’m really proud of the students, their courage, their insight, their ability to navigate a very complex situation and ultimately come to this really incredible outcome of chartering a student organization that will support LGBTQ students for generations to come.”
The university first began listening sessions for Prism after another LGBTQ student organization, Gamma Alpha Upsilon (Gamma), sought to become chartered at Baylor. The group announced in September 2021 it would no longer seek a charter after the Board of Regents released a resolution in May 2021 stating its goal to create a group that aligned with Baylor’s beliefs.
Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said Prism has achieved that goal.
“Prism’s charter is consistent with the parameters outlined by the Baylor Board of Regents in May 2021,” Fogleman said.
Duncan said Prism is set to announce its interest meeting later next week. It can officially be found in Baylor Connect, where students are welcome to request membership through the platform.
The student organization selected the name Prism because of Baylor’s emphasis on shining bright.
“We see a prism as a way that takes that light and refracts it in a really beautiful and colorful way, like it creates the rainbow,” Duncan said. “We felt like that represented the diverse sexual orientations and gender identities that are present on Baylor’s campus, as well as keeping with the theme of light shining bright, so we thought it fit really well.”
Duncan said they expect a positive response from the student body. Duncan said that they have not heard or received negative feedback or messages toward the organization and that everyone has seemed really excited.
Plano junior and Gamma external chair Alex Gonzalez said he attended the meetings while Prism was initiating its formation. He said he was initially apprehensive about the group given Gamma’s existence and involvement in the past at Baylor.
“Although Prism, in their language, doesn’t say they’re affirming, I do think that Prism is a step in the right direction,” Gonzalez said. “It’s progress, and I think that’s better than what’s been going on before with the LGBTQ issues at Baylor.”
Additionally, Gonzalez said Prism seems to be more about the discussion of sexual and gender identity open to everyone in the Baylor community. He said he feels it lacks affirming language.
Gonzalez said he will be attending the interest meeting the organization is offering and will be seeking to get involved in Prism in the future. He also said it seemed like Prism was looking into taking inspiration from Gamma on information nights and social events for the future.
Although all details have not been set, Duncan said in the future, they would like to have an interest meeting followed by a second one, depending on how the first one goes. Additionally, they are hoping they can do formals, host socials and have informational education meetings in the future.
“We really just want to create a space and a community where students can engage in safe, respectful conversation about sexuality, gender identity and how that can intersect with faith and spirituality,” Duncan said.
Prism is focused on LGBTQ+ and allies, which Duncan explained they want to be an educational space for anyone who has questions.
“We want to be able to provide resources,” Duncan said. “Our ultimate goal is just to make the entire campus a safe and respectful place.”