Kristen Dragotto, Staff Writer
It might be safe to say that everyone on the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ campus is familiar with what a Ted Talk is. The TED Organization, founded in 1984, hosts their trademark “TED Talks,” which focus on sparking conversations on topics like design, technology, etc. TEDx Talks are independent events that follow this model, but instead of focusing on things on a global level, they focus on local issues and ideas.
Over this past summer, Lindenwood University abruptly canceled a TEDx Talk they were scheduled to have this upcoming January. While Lindenwood was quick to come out with a statement claiming it was canceled due to financial reasons, speculation amongst their professors and students claim it is because one of the speeches was focused on talking about the transgender community.
I would have to personally agree with the statement given by Dr. Sarah Garwood in a LindenLink article titled “TEDx was canceled over the word transgender, speakers say.”
Garwood said, “I find it very hard to believe that the event was canceled for lack of sponsorship, given how far in advance the cancelation happened.”
This article followed up this quote by stating that one other person connected with this program agreed the event was canceled because of the topic, but refused to go on record because of their concerns about facing repercussions from the administration.
It may be hard for some of the students on UMSL’s campus to comprehend the stupidity of this situation. Aside from it being just plain wrong why they canceled the event, there is the whole factor of, if someone wants to have a TED Talk at your school, you should probably have it. Lindenwood’s response is vastly different from UMSL’s approach to the LGBTQ+ community. UMSL has a whole page dedicated to the community to ensure their students are accommodated appropriately.
UMSL has Safe Zones located throughout campus. This program focuses on having trained faculty, staff and students to show their support and compassion to those in the LGBTQ+ community or those who are questioning their sexual identity and intersex persons. Safe Zones has been designed to reduce the amount of incidences of heterosexism and homophobia that students face on campus.
PRIZM is also an organization that can be found on campus. This is UMSL’s Queer-Transgender-Straight Alliance. This organization strives to provide a safe and accepting environment for all people on campus, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identities. PRIZM is fighting to defeat negative stereotypes and educate their fellow Tritons on campus through events and activities.
Even with PRIZM and Safe Zones, UMSL makes all students feel comfortable a step further by having gender neutral facilities and gender inclusive housing. For example, the Millennium Student Center has five gender-neutral restrooms available to students and staff.
Harry Hawkins, UMSL’s LGBTQ+ coordinator on campus, gave a statement saying, “One of the ways we support the LGBTQ+ community here at UMSL is by having my role on campus. It’s not that all campuses have an LGBTQ+ coordinator that can work with this very underserved population.”
UMSL will continue its support by hosting the fifth annual Transgender Spectrum Conference Nov. 8.
UMSL is dedicated when it comes to making their students feel safe and comfortable. Lindenwood has failed to see the value in having conversations that pertain to the LGBTQ+ community. Having conversations about people who are transgender help people gain a better understanding of people who are different from themselves. It allows people to become educated about these subjects, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation may be. Having people come together from all walks of life make these conversations so priceless.