UT Lambda sees year of great accomplishments

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The last tests are taken, the books are sold back, and the goodbyes are said. The school year has come to an end for the members of the Lambda Student Union at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; but for them, the 2005-2006 school year saw great accomplishments.

With a huge turnout for the first annual “Flames of Knoxville” drag show in 2005, Lambda raised enough money to have a luau-themed kickoff party at the beginning of the next fall semester. Lambda issued an invitation to all university students, as well as to leaders from the local GLBT communities.

The luau was a great success, bringing in new members from the student population. In the meantime preparations were underway for Knoxville’s National Coming Out Day (NCOD) celebration. Lambda offered support in numerous ways, and the event was organized by the Rainbow Community Awareness Project (RCAP).

Working together, Lambda and RCAP made T-shirts for the event, hosted MTV Real World’s Chris Beckman in an on-campus appearance in which he spoke about “coming out” and drug abuse. Lambda also hosted the gay Christian pop duo, Jason and deMarco. Lambda also had the only float in the parade and was given the opportunity to have its president, Donna Dearmon, and vice president, Ashe Smith, speak at the event.

Following that, the University’s homecoming was just around the corner. Since Lambda had already created a float, the organization entered the float for participation in the homecoming parade. The group was given special permission to enter, because they did not want to compete in the parade. President Donna Dearmon said: “We just wanted to show the university that we are a part of it and to show our school spirit.”

When Lambda decided it was time for a break from studies, they invited the Maryville CLOSET group to join them on their annual Gatlinburg chalet retreat during the Thanksgiving season. Dinner was served with a wide variety of dishes, and thanks were given to everyone in both clubs.

The 2005 fall semester finished up with the December World AIDS Day remembrance and the second annual “Flames of Knoxville” drag show; after a short break, the new spring semester began with Lambda Idol, a singing contest held at the kickoff party. Member participants were held up to scrutiny by a panel of judges, and Jordan Luke brought home the title of Lambda Idol 2006.

The spring semester for Lambda is normally slower paced than the fall semester; however, Lambda still had much work to do. The first event of the semester was Freedom to Marry Day. Members set up a table in a highly trafficked area of campus and passed out information about gay marriage and related issues. Lambda expected criticism from students and possibly faculty, but the day’s activities passed without a single discriminatory act. 

The next event was a privilege to have on the university campus. The Call to Duty tour is a discussion held by formally discharged military veterans about the merits of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Lambda did not officially sponsor this event but helped to organize and promote it. Lambda member Layne Price attended the event and said, “It is amazing to me that we live in the land of the free, but our own government will not allow GLBT persons to be active in the military.”

With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, Lambda hurried to organize The National Day of Silence, a day when members are silent throughout the entire day, to echo the silenced voices of GLBT students who endure harassment and bullying. Lambda ended the year with another spectacular “Flames of Knoxville” drag show.

Officers were elected in the spring and the new Executive Board for the Lambda Student Union are:  president Ashe Smith, vice president Victoria Coates, secretary Mandy Barton, treasurer Layne Price, historian Amy Davidson, social coordinator Vince Berry, and public relations/media contact Joseph Wright. The new Board has much to live up to from the 2005-2006 year, but with determination and ambition from its members, the 2006-2007 year holds hope and promise.