Resume workshops, research competitions and career fairs teach students how to gain visibility and confidence in their achievements. The student organization Pride does the same. But it’s on more of a personal level.
“Pride gives you support and encouragement to unapologetically be who you are,” said Pride President Kapotaksha Das. “When I first came to campus three years ago, I was an introverted international student who walked into Kochoff Hall for an Inclusion Fair. That’s when I found this group of amazing caring people who have changed my life for the better.”
Anyone who wants to make the world a more inclusive welcoming place can join Pride, Das says. The student organization’s goals include promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity and equality of people, especially those who identify as queer.
This fall you may have noticed Das, a UM-Dearborn doctoral student, and Pride members on campus. They’ve hung up multi-colored flags on campus events, worked with students to make tie-dye shirts during Homecoming or posted a multitude of programs on the calendar.
“Pride members want to show that we are here to help and we’re trying to establish a sense of familiarity in campus life during a time where so much has changed,” he said. “With all of the separation and anxiety 2020 has caused, we want students to know there is a safe place you can go and be accepted.”
Not only are Pride members engaged on campus, they are also accessible remotely. They’ve created a student-run TikTok channel, WhatsApp group chat and maintain an active Instagram. Even during the pandemic, Pride stayed active. Das says they needed to: with state lock-down orders in place at the time, there were UM-Dearborn students in challenging and sometimes hostile environments with unsupportive families.
“Even if it’s just streaming a show together or talking about our experiences with the Zoom cameras off, we kept meeting weekly to do what we could so people knew they weren’t alone. It’s been a very difficult and polarizing time for many.” Das says Pride meetings currently have a hybrid model, with meetings in person that are streamed so students also can attend remotely.
Das says offering a multitude of ways to promote belonging no matter how someone identifies is strongly needed. In the past, he’s seen Pride members get threatened or harassed at public events. However, he’s noticed a shift in action and behavior this academic year.
In addition to a more hospitable environment, Das says student organizations are reaching out to Pride to get educated about the LGBTQIA+ experience. Gender-neutral restrooms have been added in a few campus locations; Pride is working with Student Government to expand that effort.
UM-Dearborn’s Center for Social Justice and Inclusion Director Shareia Carter says it’s important to provide campuswide support to organizations that promote diversity, equity and inclusion. “The Center for Social Justice serves as a support for the LGBTQIA+ community on campus and our goal is to always have strong and intentional partnership with Pride through programs and events.”
P.Das says Pride wants to foster a sense of family or togetherness on campus to help students make it through difficult times — with the goal of creating continued change into the future.
“Pride absolutely can not solve these problems overnight,” Das said. “People have differences, but we need to remember that we are all human and want to be loved and accepted. If people realized this — that there’s humanity in all of us — it would help solve systemic social issues.”
Das, whose interest area is in artificial intelligence, says his professional goal is to correct human bias that’s programmed into AI algorithms. For example, facial recognition is prone to errors when used on people with darker skin or more feminine characteristics.
“There’s so many ways that we can work to promote equity and inclusion,” he says. “UM-Dearborn is helping me do that.”
While he’s on campus to enhance his life professionally, Das also wants to help students today — through Pride — and give back to the community that’s given him acceptance, love and respect.
Article by Sarah Tuxbury. If you are interested in Pride and would like more information, check out the Pride VictorsLink site.