Drexel shows its LGBT pride

Three rainbow flags soared into the air last week as Drexel University gave a very visible nod to the university’s LGBT Pride celebration.

Drexel officials and students participated in flag-raising ceremonies at the college’s University City campus, Center City venue and Queen Lane location May 13, in advance of Drexel’s Pride Days May 16-21.

The Center City flag stands atop the 13-story Bellet Building, at 15th and Race streets, home to the university’s Program for LGBT Health, and all three flags will remain in place until May 22.

Julia Perch, a Drexel senior and president of the Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality, credited former FUSE president Andrew Damron for the idea. She began working with administrators on the effort after she assumed the presidency last year.

Perch first sought assistance from Joan McDonald, vice president of Drexel’s enrollment management and an out lesbian, and it just “took off” from there, with enrollment management and university relations jumping on board.

Perch said she had originally assumed the school would affix one flag in a non-assuming position on campus and was pleasantly surprised by the administration’s willingness to make it a broader, campus-wide effort.

“It’s amazing beyond anything I had imagined,” Perch said.

Crowds gathered at each flag-raising site, many of whom were taking photos and videos, and Perch said she’s seen nothing but positive reactions to the flags.

Perch, an English major, said that while she’s always considered the university to be inclusive, she couldn’t imagine on her first day on campus four years ago that the school would be so visibly embracing its LGBT community just before her graduation.

“The flag was raised alongside the American flag and the Pennsylvania state flag, which was just unbelievable,” she said. “It was really one of the most incredible things of my undergraduate career here.”

In addition to FUSE, Drexel is also home to an LGBT faculty group, a recently launched organization for LGBT graduate students and its Program for LGBT Health, which launched in 2009 within the School of Public Health, which is headed by out dean Dr. Marla Gold.

Perch said the ceremony, which she anticipates could become an annual event, is reflective of the university’s building commitment to being branded an LGBT-friendly institution.

“I think this is helping people become aware that Drexel is striving to become more LGBTQ-inclusive. The flag is raised right in the middle of campus and it shows that Drexel is going in this direction and realizing how important this is. I’m hoping this will really have a lasting impact, but it’s definitely a really amazing place to start.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].