For most students, Syllabus week was a time to become acclimated with new courses, but for the LGBTA Student Alliance Executive Board, it brought nothing but confusion that has now been resolved.
In one week’s time, the LGBTA Student Alliance’s name was unofficially changed and then changed back. The new treasurer resigned, and the mission of the group was temporarily adjusted as well.
These events were a delayed reaction to conversations that occurred during the summer. At that time, the new executive board had discussed the possible name change of the Alliance to “SpeakOut.” SpeakOut was the alliance’s name in 2009.
“Me and my co-president [Zach Davis] are trying to return the organization back to its original roots,” Spencer Paret, co-president of the Alliance, said.
“[We] were elected last year under the platform that we were trying to change it back to a more radical activist group,” Paret (sophomore-engineering) said.
Arielle Brown, Alliance secretary, and Leah Silverman, former Alliance treasurer, disagreed with the name and vision change.
“To change the name is to get rid of what we have built up and start all over from scratch,” Brown (senior-visual communications) said. He later said, “If you just say this is a radical organization a lot of people will be misinformed.”
After a series of discussions, the board decided to delay the changes until a member vote could be made, Silverman (junior-chemical engineering) said.
They began working to revise on an old version of the constitution that was then believed to be the current constitution on file, Paret said.
The issue was put to rest until the first week of the fall 2012 semester.
Paret and Davis attempted to change the name of the group to “SpeakOut” to coincide with the name in the constitution they were working on, Paret said.
In the new version of the constitution, the name “SpeakOut” was used to refer to the organization. However, it is in a color indicating that the word be deleted.
On Tuesday, Aug. 28, the organization checked into a Penn State involvement fair under the name LGBTA Student Alliance.
“During my time at the involvement fair, we advertised our organization as the Alliance,” Silverman said.
Paret and Davis also handed out information sheets with the name SpeakOut to possible new members during this time, Paret said.
That day at 11:32 p.m., an email by Davis was sent to the organization’s list-serv stating the group as “SpeakOut (formerly the LGBTA Student Alliance).”
At about 12 a.m. Wednesday, the organization’s name was changed to SpeakOut on its Facebook group, “LGBTA Student Alliance.”
Here, Davis posted: “This year the Student Alliance has been pushed in very new and exciting directions by its member base; the co-presidents you elected in April have started the year with a radical name change to signify the start of a new era in the Penn State Queer movement. We are excited to announce that we have officially changed our organization's name back to SpeakOut!”
Multiple comments regarding group members’ confusion about the news followed the post.
Following the incident, Silverman went to the Office of Student Affairs on Aug 29.
“I went to the student activities office to make sure I had all the official information that was registered with Student Activities,” Silverman said.
She learned that the name of the group registered with the office was still the LGBTA Student Alliance.
“Unfortunately for them, it’s unconstitutional to change the name to a group that doesn’t exist,” Brown said.
In the constitution, it states that 50 percent of active members are needed to vote on an amendment to the constitution and 66 percent must agree to make the amendment.
To be considered an active member, individuals must also come to a specific number of meetings.
Davis and Paret believed it was proper to change the constitution in this way so that the name indicated and the name of the group matched. They did not believe they violated any form of the constitution, Paret said.
Silverman informed Paret and Davis that the name change was unconstitutional and information including the name “SpeakOut” was changed back to the LGBTA Student Alliance, she said.
Silverman resigned from her position as treasurer on Aug. 31.
“I need to be in a working environment in which I trust that the organization will comply with University Policies,” Silverman said. “This whole situation was too stressful for me to continue to be an effective leader.”
A date has not been set for the organization to vote on the name and mission of the organization, Paret said.
He also said that the aforementioned week and changing of the name was a “big miscommunication.”