Story by Audrey Callaway Scherer, staff reporter
Multiple new resources have been scheduled to begin this fall for CNM’s LGBTQ+ community and allies, including weekly lunch socials, another Coming Out Day, regular visits for HIV testing on campus and the chartering of a new student group, said Brian Rasmussen, an organizer of QCNM and the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee at CNM.
These new resources and activities are a continuation of the two groups’ collaboration to create more equity and safe spaces for people and allies in the LGBTQ+ community, he said.
“One of the ways we wanted to start creating more equity was to raise visibility . . . so that people would see that CNM is an inclusive place – for the most part, there’s lots of places that we need to keep working on – and that there are people in the institution who are actively working to change policies to create a safer and more welcome environment,” said Rasmussen.
Weekly lunches will be replacing the Q-Study Halls that have been active since the spring term of 2018 but not getting the attendance the organizers had hoped, he said.
The lunches, much like the study halls, will provide opportunities for people to drop in, hang out, socialize and get to know each other every Wednesday in the Main Campus cafeteria. It is also confirmed that the event will take place at the West Side and Montoya campuses, he said.
QCNM will also be hosting its second Coming Out Day in October of 2019. Because the group’s focus is on getting the student group running, he said this year will be scaled back a bit, but last year, they had food, a speakers’ panel and people tabling from many different organizations.
On June 27, for National HIV Testing Day, free HIV testing was scheduled to make its first appearance on Main Campus through Southwest Cares, an organization that provides free HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing for people, he said. The visits are to be similar to blood bank visits as they will just be on campus if anyone wants to get their status checked.
After this first visit, he said the committee plans to have them on campus either monthly or every other month.
QCNM may also try to get a group together to do the HIV walk in September as an institution to help Albuquerque Pride raise money for HIV research, he said.
The student group, Q-Cats, has been scheduled to be chartered in August and will be the third level added to the administration-centered advisory committee and the more social, all-inclusive QCNM.
“The student group will be whatever it wants to create,” said Rasmussen. “There will be a lot of cross-pollination between the three different levels, so that people are working with each other across the different levels in the institution.”
Some of the activities that are discussed between the three groups during QCNM meetings will be turned over to the Q-Cats for handling, he said.
QCNM meetings typically happen monthly and allow people from all different sectors – students, faculty and staff – to create a safe space and talk about what is going on around the school, the issues that need to be addressed, what the institution should be doing and what they would like to do, he said.
“What are some of the fun things we can do to create community on campus, to give people role models, to create networking?” he said.
Part of getting the Q-Cats active is to get them able to do tabling, which is basically setting up a table to provide people with information, answer questions and refer to allies in the community when they don’t have the answers, he said.
QCNM has assembled a kit that includes all kinds of tabling things, such as brochures, flyers, candy and rainbow tablecloths, that a student, faculty or staff member would be able to use for events they have requested or set up.
Those doing tabling would also refer people to CNM’s resources, such as the firstname.lastname@example.org email address, the QCNM Facebook page, or the QCNM website – http://www.cnm.edu/student-resources/lgbtq, he said.
The Facebook page has a lot of content and the website has a lot of resources, including an Ally List and access to a discrimination and complaint process, he noted. QCNM also has a listserv, which is email@example.com.
“There’s so many things we’ve been working on,” he said.
QCNM and the committee have worked with various departments at CNM to change policies around name changes, make sure that almost all the buildings on the campuses have gender-neutral bathrooms, and provide Safe Zone, Trans 101 and Trans 201 trainings for faculty and staff, he said.
In addition, they have done community service types of events and events on campus.
They have set up volunteer days at Roadrunner Food Bank during which they helped for a few hours in the back, sorted, organized and shelved food or did whatever needed to be done, he said.
On campus, they have done a movie night and welcome back mixer. Off campus, they have gone to the Isotopes games a couple times and planned a Cliff’s Amusement Park day.
“Just showing up as a group,” he said. “Like, ‘Hey, let’s all go do this fun thing together.’”
The events are not exclusive and anyone is welcome, he said. Although, he noted, sometimes in creating a safe space, the needs of the minority community must be prioritized.
Pending approval, they would eventually like to try a rainbow graduation activity such as a small reception before the ceremony celebrating the success of the LGBTQ+ group for graduating and maybe giving them rainbow cords, a button or something they could wear, he said.
QCNM and the advisory committee have worked with multiple organizations in the community, most of which can be found on the school’s LGBTQ+ online resource page – http://www.cnm.edu/student-resources/lgbtq/resources.
They have also worked a bit with American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Albuquerque Pride and the people helping the transgender people at the Cibola Detention Center, he said.
QCNM started in May of 2017 and the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee started in February of 2018 in response to the Orlando shooting and Erica Barreiro Volkers, the dean of the School of Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences, took the lead, he said.
The group was organized to compare CNM to other institutions through a campus index and then think about what the school should be doing. The whole first year was mostly planning, he said, but things really took off after that initial meeting.
“We’ve had a really effective group of people in getting a lot of stuff done,” he said. “It’s really exciting to think, in my not even three years, like two and some months, of all the things we’ve effected on the individual student level but also on the systemic institutional level. And more good stuff coming.”
Rasmussen’s full-time position at CNM is as a staff sign language interpreter for the Disability Resource Center and the rest of what he does are basically projects that he has taken up, he said.
“My supervisors have been really kind to support it and they see that it’s a need,” he said. “As long as my work gets done, I can do this on the side.”