For most organizations and clubs, the beginning of the school year means hosting parties and events to lure new members.
One campus organization, however, decided to take a different route.The Lambda Student Union held a "Back to School" Luau in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building Wednesday. Decorated with a tropical Hawaiian theme, the luau featured balloons, beach balls, tropical fauna and cocktail umbrellas for attendees to put in their drinks.Originally intended to attract new members, the luau is an annual tradition for the Lambda Student Union. Yet this year, the executive board decided to change the event's typical schedule to align more closely with how the organization usually works.
"Our back to school event usually happens during the first week of classes, and then we have regular meetings," Michael Porter, president of the Lambda Student Union and senior in political science, said. "This year, we combined the luau and a normal meeting time so that people [would] get familiar with our location. Having this luau is different – I don't see any other luaus happening on campus."
Dozens of students showed up at the free event, chatting with each other and eating food that the executive board prepared and brought to the event themselves. Members of the Lambda Student Union considered the event a success."I think the event was great," said Alssa Garbien, public relations coordinator for the club and senior majoring in communications. "A lot of people came out, everyone was socializing. It looks like a good turnout for Lambda this year."
Aside from gathering people together, the organization also strives to connect the LGBT community and their allies at UT. As their website states, Lambda Student Union "is the only student-led organization on campus that provides a means of communication among lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex and allied students (LGBTQQIA) at the University of Tennessee."
"The purpose of our organization is to build a community of support, acceptance, within the group setting, such as in the Lambda meeting, and also educate the UT community and the public about LGBT issues and rights advocacy," Porter said. "It's a dual purpose – we want to build a community within Lambda, and push for the UT and Knoxville community to be more accepting and appreciative of diversity, including LGBT issues." Encouraged by the positive reception, the group plans to use future luaus to raise awareness about the organization and LGBT support."
With this event, we want to show people, especially the LGBT community, that there are others who care about them," AJ Knowles, junior in political science, said. "We want to show that not only do we support them, but that there are others who are willing to provide time and ideas to help advance LGBT issues and rights advocacy."
In the coming year, the Lambda Student Union also wants more input and involvement from its members."We want to push our members to get involved," Porter said. "We want them to give their feedback on what they want to do with this organization, and what they want to see. With more feedback and more members, we can learn how to work better with each other and hopefully find more ways to be more supportive and successful in LGBT subjects."
For those who are interested in joining, the organization is open to all students. Meetings are in HSS Room 69 from 6-7 p.m. every Wednesday. More information can be found at their UTK website and Facebook page. The Lambda Student Union can also be followed on Twitter at @utlambda.