This Letter to the Editors was submitted by Braden Carkhuff, a senior at Concordia College.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Concordia brought two National Book Award winners to campus about a month ago. During the authors’ visit, they discussed their writing as well as themes from their own lives that they use to inspire their own poems and stories. Socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexuality and immigration were all topics discussed. However, one thing I noticed was the prevalence of bullying as a topic in both authors’ writing. Finney focused on GLBTQ and racial bullying while Lai focused on the immigrant’s perspective of bullying. The school and administration funded and publicized these authors and recognized the importance of hearing what these author’s opinions about contemporary issues in the United States are.
However, when students and faculty of the school decided to make an “It Gets Better” video, the same enthusiasm was not shown. The “It Gets Better” campaign describes, on its website, its mission thus: “to show LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone – and it WILL get better.” To date, the administration of Concordia College has not acknowledged or backed the message the short video tries to share. “It Gets Better” is a global attempt to lower suicidal thoughts and actions on the part of those who have been singled out and picked on. Concordia’s video does just the same. A positive message is shared, telling those who are struggling that it does, in fact, get better.
This isn’t a cry to our administration to recognize the Straight and Gay Alliance’s work. We’ve already achieved recognition with over 6,000 views of the video on YouTube alone as well as secured a spot on the “It Gets Better” Project’s website. This is a public letter asking the school why they won’t stand behind a message of hope for those who are struggling with their identity and place in the world.
The school currently has a YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed. I, as well as many others, would like to see the video on these social networks, announcing to the public that Concordia College is a place where we recognize the struggle of identity formation and realize the importance of every person’s life. Mark Hanson, an ELCA bishop, has also backed this mission. We should do the same.
The support from students and faculty is overwhelming. I, myself, have been approached by numerous staff and faculty commending me for what we have accomplished.
SAGA has also received emails from guidance counselors in two different school districts who said they loved our video and shared it with their students. Why wouldn’t Concordia College want to support this message, especially when so many people find their place here?
What’s hard for me to reconcile is that we belong to a school which touts rhetoric about being globally engaged and inclusive. But at the same time, they do not show public support for a project which does exactly what our mission statement calls us to do.
In a world that is rapidly progressing towards more inclusivity, I sincerely hope that Concordia College is not taking a step backward when it should be stepping forward.