Remarks from President Braun at the Spectrum Conference
It has been an absolute privilege to spend the day hearing so many impactful stories- and learning more about a community I care deeply about. This conference has opened my eyes in so many ways, and has shown me how I can be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ members of the SUNY family and throughout our world.
As a straight white male, I am not constantly confronted with many of the obstacles so many of you face. I appreciate everyone here taking the opportunity to educate me- and others who identify as I do- so that we can be thoughtful advocates for the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. I see it as absolutely essential that those outside of the community support the leadership on these issues, and be consistent, committed allies.
The Student Assembly is committed to fighting for the LGBTQ+ community- and in particular against the interpersonal and sexual violence members of the community disproportionately face.
It is unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable, that those with marginalized sexual and gender identities face disproportionate rates of violence. Too often this issue goes under-discussed and unaddressed. Too often issues affecting marginalized communities do not attract mainstream attention and continue on and on and on. As I see it, an issue affecting any member of the SUNY family directly affects SUNY Students, and I am going to use the platform my role offers to speak out and force attention onto the issue. Just because this may be an issue that disproportionately affects one community, does not mean that the community must face it alone.
You do not need to be in a leadership role to become engaged on these issues. Every student has a responsibility to become informed on the issues facing their fellow students, especially of students from different walks of life. And most importantly, every student has an obligation to be more than a bystander when they witness or are informed of instances of sexual or interpersonal violence.
I am proud to have assembled a leadership team which includes many students of the LGBTQ+ community, and we are committed to ensuring the student voice is heard at SUNY, at the legislature, and in Washington on these issues. We will work to ensure that when survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence come forward on our campuses to tell their stories, that they are supported, believed, and given the resources that they need. And that this support is provided no matter what they look like or how they identify.
New York State and SUNY have some of the most supportive policies for survivors in the country, a fact in which we should take immense pride. The federal policies in this area however are under intense scrutiny from the Department of Education, the Trump administration and Congress. Some floated changes to federal sexual violence policy would not serve students better and the Student Assembly will not hesitate to oppose them if necessary.
Over the coming year, know that you have a group of unequivocal allies in the Student Assembly, and a passionate ally on the Board of Trustees in me personally. Please do not hesitate to reach out and share stories of how you can be better supported on your campus and I can assure you that we will act on your concerns.
Student leaders are committed to not only the prevention of sexual and interpersonal violence against the LGBTQ+ community, but to change our culture on these issues. Students, united, have the power to make society see issues it has not previously recognized. Throughout history, it has always been students who drive social change, who force issues onto the agenda, and mobilize in support of marginalized communities. So students- both in this room and throughout the SUNY System- let’s unite with our friends and family in the LGBTQ+ community, to make real, lasting change on our campuses and for our world. Thank you.