|MU Students Break Boundaries, Validate Love
If you entered on the Union last Feb 14th, you probably noticed that for some students on campus, Feb. 14 was not viewed as Valentine’s Day anymore, but as Validation Day.
Their inspiration was Jackie Nagilla, the former OMA Director, who had assigned a passive program, where people do not have to interact with each other to get the educational aspect of it. Indeed, when Nagilla was an undergraduate student, she organized a kissing on Valentine’s Day, where a number of interracial and same sex couples literally sat and stayed frozen, lips to lips, for thirty minutes, all over campus, throughout the day.
Hidalgo and Guyer wanted their program to bring the same message but not the same concept. “The message was validating love, through racial boundaries, through gender boundaries, and through different sexual orientations from the dominant ideology of the white heterosexual one,” Hidalgo said. “Especially here in Indiana, where it was not until the mid-seventies that interracial couples were allowed to get married.”
Wes Heath and Zabrian Mills, both students at Manchester University, participated in this event together. “Zabrian and I are one of the few out gay males couples on campus, so I guess this is also why Guyer asked us,” Heath said. “It was a great idea, especially being on Valentine’s Day. I think it had a really good message and it was showing the actual scope of the campus in term of relationships.”
Although some people did not seems to appreciate the images and were rolling their eyes, many others really enjoyed this exhibition that was hosted in the Union on Valentine’s Day.
Becca Creath, Peace Studies coordinator, noted that the event was an appropriate way to honor the diversity on campus. “Having a display that is validating the diversity that we have on campus, on Valentine’s Day, seems to be a wonderful way to witness and help create a more supportive and potentially aware campus,” Creath said. “I think that lots of people, sometimes, forget that love can take many forms. So I think it’s great to celebrate the diversity that Manchester University has to offer.”
Guyer said it was a gift to her to have the opportunity to photograph those couples, and she hopes it has become a gift of thoughtful conversation to staff, faculty and students. "The courage to take a personal stand for justice on campus is just the beginning of what individuals in these photos hold,” Guyer said.“Take a look, and you can just feel beauty exuding from them.”
The pictures were originally supposed to be displayed on the campus TV screen, to reach a wider audience, but the Administration did not approve the idea. Beth Sweitzer-Riley, vice president for student development justifies this decision by stating that it is important to have pictures displayed with a context of the educational component, as well as an opportunity to provide dialogue on the issue. “The TV screen display of just photos would not allow this interaction to happen and thus unintended consequences could occur which could possibly backfire and generate hostility rather than understanding and widen gulfs rather than bridge them,” Sweitzer-Riley said.
According to Hidalgo, if you are not shaking up the basket, you are not doing it right, because it is deviance that changes the culture.
“Being provocative is good because it gets attention, so I’m all for that, but you still need background information and an educational program, like for the exhibitions we have in the Academic Center,” said Glenn Sharfman, vice president and dean for Academic Affairs at Manchester University.
Thus, the goal of the Validating Love campaign¾bringing exposure to the people who did not have exposure to this counterculture¾was reached. According to Hidalgo, thanks to the great talent of Guyer, the pictures say a thousand words. “An intimate kiss, to a parent to child kiss, all it does is symbolize love and that was the whole point of this campaign,” Hidalgo concluded.