A First Amendment forum, inclusive exercise, ally training, and a fashion and drag show are among the activities planned for Washington State University’s Unity Week, Nov. 12-16.

Unity Week is a semesterly effort by the Division of Student Affairs that encourages campus communities across the WSU system to come together and share information.

Featuring the First Amendment

Jaime Nolan, associate vice president for Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence, said there is a lot of excitement surrounding the week’s activities, including the highly anticipated “Understanding the First Amendment at WSU” forum scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14, at 4 p.m. in the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center.

Nathan Deen, WSU’s assistant attorney general, will be the forum’s featured speaker. Deen joined the WSU Division of the Attorney General’s Office in July 2015 after spending seven years in Bellingham, Wash. working as a prosecutor for the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County.

Nathan Deen in profile
Nathan Deen

Like many colleges and universities, we have been challenged with how WSU should view our support of the First Amendment as a public institution, and balance that with our need to foster and sustain an inclusive, just, and equitable community,” Nolan said. “Far too often it is presented as an all or nothing proposition when they are not really mutually exclusive.”

Deen will discuss what the First Amendment is, how it works on a public college campus, and what actions faculty, staff and students can and can’t take in response to it. Following his remarks, facilitators will guide attendees through thoughtful discussion addressing what can be done to support the First Amendment at WSU, while at the same time, build a campus community where everyone can thrive while living, working and learning.

“We believe there are things we can do,” Nolan said. “My hope is that by grappling with this question, we will develop some really good strategies.”

Matthew Jeffries, director of the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC) and chair of the Unity Week Steering Committee, looks forward to discussing higher education’s unique position when considering the First Amendment. He said where some might see the first amendment as divisive, it may be more functional in nature when we better understand it. Creating strategies to help the community effectively work within its boundaries will be helpful.

“Once students, faculty and staff realize our limitations around it, they can better understand why we are doing many things, like Unity Week, to help create a unified WSU,” Jeffries said.

Fluid fashion

Marco Cerqueira, a GIESORC graduate assistant and doctoral student in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education, is excited to see the culmination of two months of planning unfold during the Fashion and Drag Show, scheduled for today, Nov. 12, 7 p.m., in the Compton Union Building Senior Ballroom.

In partnership with the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design & Textiles, the event will include WSU’s first-ever fluid fashion show which features clothing tailored for non-binary individuals, those who do not identify as male or female.

Some of the clothing in the show has been provided by top names brands in the genderless clothing industry. Other pieces come from GIESORC’s fluid fashion boutique. The boutique started as an idea from a WSU trans student who thought it would be helpful to have a place for students to donate or receive clothing while transitioning.

Cerqueira said GIESORC began seeking donations for the boutique last year and has received a great response from the local community and clothing companies. The boutique boasts apparel, hats, undergarments, shoes and more.

“Fluid Fashion has become overwhelmingly popular with GIESORC students,” Cerqueira said. “We’ve also seen faculty and staff utilizing the closet which is pretty incredible.”

In keeping with the show’s theme, ‘United We Are Stronger’, Cerqueira said individuals from many different backgrounds will model the clothing to help showcase the diversity at WSU. The show will also feature four drag queens.

Allies, exercise and service

Unity Week offers opportunities to learn how to effectively support and advocate for a broad range of students including those with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, international, and undocumented students.

Ally trainings are scheduled throughout the week and will be accessible to those not on the Pullman campus via Zoom.

There will also be several fun and interesting ways to exercise and destress including a high-energy Zumba session featuring Latinx music and international dance styles; a fitness program called Powwow Sweat that features a series of workout videos developed by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe which uses traditional powwow dances as a way to exercise; and a mindfulness program that offers ceramics and glass painting, origami, and gingerbread house making.

Those wishing to express their unity in the community can participate in several service projects coordinated by the Center for Civic Engagement including environmental restoration work in Whitman County and the Palouse Conservation District, as well as assist with archiving at White Spring Ranch’s Farmhouse Museum and Log Cabins.

“Unity Week allows us to take a moment to realize how we are connected and that helps us when we get into spaces where we might disagree with one another,” Nolan said. “When we can start at a place where we recognize we are all Cougs and part of the same community, it can go a long way.”

The Unity Week website includes a full list of all events, times, locations and Zoom links.