By Mykie Bennett
On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Howard University Student Association (HUSA) Senate members made history with a unanimous vote to for the creation of an LGBTQ Fund to be added to their constitution. The LGBTQ Fund, which was the joint and tireless effort of HUSA’s student advocacy committee and CASCADE, was initially proposed at the constitutional review convention in the Fall but fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass legislation. The LGBTQ Fund was reworked, this time asking for 0.5 percent of each council’s budget as opposed to the 5 percent from the initial proposal.
Prior to the constitutional review convention, memos were sent to all schools and councils who would be affected by the 0.5 percent decrease in budget. The School of Law Council raised a point of uncertainty with the legislation and because these concerns could not be remedied before the vote came to a close, the School of Law was removed from the language of the legislation. During the vote both senators from the law school were absent and could not be reached for comment following. Their contribution to the fund, $175, was not lost, however, as a student within the School of Law volunteered to pay out their portion.
The fund would dedicate 60 percent of its estimated $4,064.36 to researching the amount of students on the Howard University campus that identify as a member of the LGBTQ community and what resources would best aid and benefit them as they matriculate through the university. The fund would also dedicate 20 percent of its allotment to short term initiatives and 20 percent to long term initiatives. In addition to monetary provisions, the LGBTQ Fund also provides an important shift in the governmental and social understandings of the LGBTQ population at Howard.
Autumn Angilette, sophomore acting major, recognizes the LGBTQ Fund as a well of potential to educate the cisgender and heterosexual students of Howard outside of panels. She believes that the LGBTQ Fund can create a beneficial and structured educational tool for both cishet and LGBT students alike. Angilette has found herself “explaining the validity of bisexuality to people and that certain words were actually slurs.”
The fund passed unanimously among all 15 senators present. With this unanimous vote came a historic moment. At the moment the last senator voted yea, Howard University became the first HBCU to not only recognize LGBTQ students in its constitution but the first to set aside money specifically for the betterment of LGBTQ students now and in the years to come.
“You have a party or a talk or something else and then it just goes away until next time, whereas policy is something that can be built on. It can challenge the idea that Howard is not ready for the shift in culture that comes with recognizing one of the most prevalent yet extremely marginalized groups on this campus. The fund is a way of saying ‘we’re here,’” said Dean Esan, junior biology major. Esan is excited to see change that will last longer than the previous initiatives targeted at the LGBTQ population at Howard.
Alexis Grady, junior political science major, serves as a Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences as well as Chair of Student Advocacy. Grady was one of the coauthors of the legislation. Grady wanted to create real and lasting change when they were elected into the office of the HUSA senate in the spring of 2018.
Though the fund only has a guaranteed $4,000, Grady is confident that the money can be expanded and the future can be bright for the LGBTQ students who attend Howard.
“That’s the beauty of it. They can do anything they set their minds to. I can see them making Howard as queer as it is black through their initiatives, through their ideas, they can do anything. Howard is at the forefront of a lot of things but it’s not enough to say we are. We have to walk the walk. When it comes to marginalized students being represented even in the smallest ways we have a lot of work to do,” said Grady.
The fund itself is something that many students feel strongly about, with more than 1600 students voting for it during the elections on March 1. This piece of legislation is deeply important to students across campus, not only for those who can reap the benefits in the immediate future but also for the future of LGBTQ students who will attend Howard long after many have graduated.