Roast raises awareness

Published 1:21 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2016

More than 120 Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) students not only opened roasted oysters amid the strumming of guitar strings and crisp fall air Thursday, they also opened a brotherly dialogue about the diversity of sexual orientations and brought awareness to domestic violence.

The Open-up Oyster Shuck, organized and hosted by students for their peers, involved numerous campus advocacy groups, including Wellness Advocates, Gender Affairs Committee, Minority Student Union (MSU), College Activities Committee, No More and Residence Life.

JORDAN MILES | HERALD Enrique Elizondo, left, and Spencer Dixon ready the grill for the oyster roast.

Enrique Elizondo, left, and Spencer Dixon ready the grill for the oyster roast.

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“You open the oysters — we’re all opening up,” MSU President Tyler Langhorn, a senior, said during the event.

The metaphor of the oyster seeks to open students’ minds around discussion of the sensitive topics, he said.

The event — held on the Graham Hall patio — included games and activities for students.

“What this event is is a unity opportunity,” H-SC Student Body President Eric McDonald said. “It’s actually six groups coming together for two causes.”

He said the event served to get students together “to talk about some of the issues,” citing those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or those questioning their sexual orientation — an acronym commonly referred to as LGBTQ.

“It’s pretty cool just getting the groups together,” said McDonald, who is from Leesburg.

Sue Carter, the college’s Title IX coordinator, said the event was, to her knowledge, a first for the campus community.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

“It was the students’ idea. I just informed them that we had a domestic violence awareness month and we should do something about it. And they came up with all of this,” she said as the students served themselves barbecue and more.

To highlight domestic violence, students illuminated the campus’ fraternity circle with purple lights.

“We want people to open their minds to awareness and be more accepting and be more tolerant,” she said.

“We want to stand up against (domestic violence), make it known that there is domestic violence and make it known that, as a college full of men, we’re taking a stand against that,” Langhorn added. “We’re also talking about opening our hearts and minds and arms to the LGBTQ community. Other brothers and members of our brotherhood here who identify with those feelings, thoughts (and) sexual orientations … We really worked hard to put this together. We’ve been working for about a month and a half.”

The event came as October served as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).

“Besides raising awareness and starting conversations about this important and current issue, the lights and ribbons represent DVAM’s original three themes: Mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived and connecting those who work to end violence,” Carter said in an email to students.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

“Besides eating and listening to a great band, many students discussed unity opportunities and domestic violence awareness,” Carter said. “Messages for (domestic violence) survivors were illuminated and more purple lights handed out.”

Carter said students have already created event committees to work on other events highlighting domestic violence, such as Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, where men walk in high heels for 1 mile, and a 9K for Title IX.

“We are hoping to have those two events next semester,” she said.