LGBTQ+ resource office opens on Southern Miss campus
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Office of Multicultural Programs and Services opened a new space Sept. 12 in the Hub next to the Center for Community Engagement called the PRISM LGBTQ+ Resource Office. The center came about as an initiative to broaden the scope of USM’s Office of Multicultural Programs and Services to other students and minority groups on campus.
The PRISM office will be a place for LGBTQ+ students and their allies to congregate and get valuable resources. It will hopefully ensure that every student at Southern Miss feels like they belong to an accepting campus community.
Valencia Walls is the coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services and has been instrumental in the new space being created. She clearly articulated what it means for students to be a part of a campus community and why the PRISM office is a vital tool for our campus community.
“Studies show that retention of students directly correlates to their connection with a positive campus community,” Walls said. “Having people you can relate to and connect with helps you and sets you up to be a successful student. The aim of student affairs in general is to give students a connection outside of the classroom.”
Thomas Burke, the vice president of student affairs, was directly involved in the creation of the Prism office and was able to ensure that it found a home here at Southern Miss this past summer. That is when Max Macpherson, a graduate assistant here at USM, heard about the PRISM office opening and got on board with the project. Macpherson was thrilled by the project and expressed her excitement to get involved.
“I heard through a friend that they were going to be opening a LGBTQ+ office on campus, and I immediately knew I had to be involved. I was very excited! I emailed Dr. Burke, and I then got started a week later and have been working on the PRISM office opening ever since” In the hopes of capturing what the larger southern miss community felt about the opening of the new PRISM office, the Student Printz created a public poll on their Facebook page with the question “Do you support The University of Southern Mississippi having an LGBTQ+ resource office space on campus?”
As of Sept. 9, 90 people responded to the poll; 89 percent of the people who responded were in favor, four percent were indifferent or had no opinion and seven percent were against the PRISM office opening. With the help of polls and opening the debate for all opinions, LGBTQ+ students, allies and other members of our community can properly asses the cultural views of members of our Southern Miss community and help us understand all viewpoints. Chase Wilson, a physics graduate student, expressed why he did not see the center as a necessity for the campus community.
“An office that focuses on sexual preference would be superfluous and wasteful. There are already many ways for individuals to express themselves through academic studies and extracurricular activities,” Wilson said.
Matthew Snellgrove, a freshmen film major, had quite the opposite opinion and expressed how he thought the Prism office would be useful.
“I believe the PRISM office is a step in the right direction for the university. It exemplifies what it means to support minority groups and provide safe spaces for students who may need someone to reach out to,” Snellgrove said.
The PRISM office has various events scheduled for this fall semester for all Southern Miss students that want to get involved on campus. Oct. 4-8 will be the centers Pride celebration, and Oct. 11 they will be celebrating national coming out day. Nov. 13-17 they will be promoting Transgender Awareness Week, and Dec. 1 they will be partnering with the AIDS services coalition to bring light to World AIDS Day.