Editor's note: A previous version of this story included a photo with a caption which incorrectly stated the subject's name. The Herald regrets this error, and it has been corrected.
The Hilltopper Pride Network launched a new initiative to make campus more inclusive by providing a list of faculty and staff who are allies to the LGBTQ+ community.
Nicholas Schiller, a housing and residential life area coordinator and the co-chair of the Hilltopper Pride Network, explained what the Hilltopper Pride Network is and how it relates to other campus organizations.
“Hilltopper Pride Network is a faculty staff resource group for LGBTQ+ faculty staff as well as allies,” Schiller said. “So I kind of like to think of it as like, we have the student component with Queer Student Union and the Pride Center. We have the alumni component with the Topper Pride Alumni Chapter. And now we have the faculty staff component with the Hilltopper Pride Network.”
Schiller also explained that the organization rebranded this year in finding new ways to become a resource to faculty, staff and the community. He said there are a variety of ways the new initiative will help students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s a way for students to see what faculty and staff members are openly stating they are an ally to the LGBTQ+,” Schiller said. “Just to say ‘Hey, I’m here, if you ever need to talk you can talk to me,’ so they never have to second guess or think ‘is this person going to be supportive?’”
He also mentioned from his own experience that a person never actually stops coming out; a person typically has to decide every time they meet someone new if they want to come out to them or not.
“From my own experience being part of the LGBTQ+ community, you are constantly going through the process of coming out,” Schiller said. “It’s not a one-time process. Every time you interact with someone, you have to decide do I come out to this person or do I not.”
Patrick Collins is the other co-chair of the Hilltopper Pride Network, faculty advisor to the Queer Student Union, and a representative of the Topper Pride Alumni Chapter. He also works as a mesonet systems meteorologist for the Kentucky Mesonet in the Kentucky Climate Center.
“We are trying to create a central location for LGBTQ+ students to look up faculty, staff or administration,” Collins said. “So they can find people who are open and are allies of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Collins also talked about his college experience and how being open with his professors helped him.
“I know when I was going through college in Alabama,” Collins said. “I wanted to be able to be myself and not have to hide my identity. Being able to openly discuss my work with my professor and not put on a second face and hide who I was made it easier for me.”
Debra Murray can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy.