Jacqueline Centeno ’22 | Contributing Writer
Founded in 2011, PRISM is a student-led organization that seeks to create a community and safe space for queer, trans and questioning students of color. PRISM’s stated goal is to “enlighten the Smith community about issues concerning queer students of color by creating a positive presence on campus and providing educational activities open to the general Smith community.” However, the limited funding the organization receives makes it difficult to do as much as the organization hopes to.
As a first-year, I didn’t know what clubs to join. Then, I came across a student who mentioned PRISM. Immediately, I was drawn to it because I’ve never really been a part of something that was designed particularly for trans/queer/questioning students of color. I joined, went to meetings and participated in regular discussions; I felt empowered by this because I was finally in a safe environment where I could talk about my feelings and experiences.
In one meeting, a fellow student mentioned how they wanted to make PRISM a unity org. I was shocked by that news because I thought the club was already a unity organization. A unity organization is a cultural organization, like the Black Students’ Alliance (BSA) or Asian Students’ Association (ASA).
I want PRISM to be a unity org is so we, as a club, can get extra funding from the Student Government Association (SGA). With the added funding, PRISM will have more visibility on campus, bring in more students who identify as a trans/queer/questioning student of color and be able to host big events that express our unique identities.
Other unity organizations, such as the Latin American Students’ Organization (LASO), have the funding necessary to hold large occasions like “TOLA” (Taste of Latin America), bringing all students together and having a day where they can eat and share their cultures. However, PRISM can’t do that because they don’t have enough resources and funding. The Black Students Alliance has been on campus for a very long time; therefore, they have more recognition and are well-supported by the school. However, as a fairly new club, PRISM should be given the same right and gain prominence at Smith.
Being a trans/queer person of color is an identity that is faced with a lot of backlash and oppression in society, and it’s a problem that the Smith community could help alleviate by supporting organizations that provide safe spaces to marginalized identities.
A greater issue, however, was brought to my attention after conducting an interview with PRISM’s secretary, Reneé Revolorio Keith ’21, who expressed their belief on why Smith doesn’t recognize PRISM as a unity organization: “Smith has a limited viewpoint on what diversity looks like — on what diversity means.” All of the other unity organizations consist of one type of identity, such as the ASA, BSA and LASO. However, since PRISM is a group for two identities — namely being trans/queer/questioning and being a person of color — Smith can’t decide if it should be considered a unity organization.
It seems the problem lies deeper within the institution itself. If Smith has transgender men and genderqueer people, then why does Smith still consider itself a women’s college? As Smith students, we have the right to be recognized and rightly represented in a college that is supposed to be welcoming to us all.
The goal of SGA for the 2018-2019 academic year is to “work on strengthening and increasing unity within the Smith College community by advocating for a campus environment that is not only diverse but also inclusive, equitable, accessible, healthy and safe for all of its students.” Interestingly enough, I don’t believe SGA has done its job as far as making PRISM a unity organization. Through increased funding, PRISM can speak to others in the Smith community on an institutional level and create an inclusive, safe and accessible space for those who identify as a trans/queer/questioning person of color. If SGA really wants to make a diverse, inclusive, equitable, accessible, healthy and safe environment, they would grant PRISM unity organization status.
It is only a small step towards addressing the larger issue at hand — but this small change can make a big difference and pave the way for more discussions about diversity and policy changes.