During April, Tarleton State University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and International Programs (ODIIP) participated in the NOH8 in my school campaign. ODIIP participated in the campaign’s activities on Tarleton’s Stephenville campus and the Fort Worth campus.
The NOH8 campaign began in 2009 as a protest against laws that banned gay marriage in California. This photographic protest sparked a movement that would carry on for years and expand to be adopted by Tarleton’s ODIIP to bring more inclusion and positivity to the school.
“The NOH8 Campaign is a photographic silent protest created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8. Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NOH8” painted on one cheek in protest,” noh8campaign.com said.
Over the years, the NOH8 campaign has broadened to express many different things. Such as racism, sexism and bullying. On the NOH8 official website, they explain that since their start the campaign has gained worldwide support and has began to include bringing awareness to hate of all kinds.
“While inspired by the passage of Prop 8 and the fight for marriage equality, the scope of the NOH8 Campaign has grown to stand against discrimination and bullying of all kinds. The message of ‘No Hate’ can be interpreted and applied broadly, and everyone can relate to the message of NOH8 in their own way,”noh8campaign.com said.
Since at least 2012, Tarleton has been participating in the campaign calling it the NOH8 in Our School Photo shoot. Emily VanKirk, the Student Specialist at the ODIIP explained how the message of the NOH8 campaign exemplifies Tarleton’s past core value of civility.
“Us at ODIIP definitely think that the Tarleton value of civility embodies [the NOH8 mission]. So we bring the campaign to campus to give folks the opportunity to visually represent that our campus does not tolerate incivility, therefore NOH8 in my school,” VanKirk said.
They also bring up bystander intervention and how campaigns like this might help students be more than a bystander.
“With humans we have this social hesitance. We don’t want to speak out about things unless we know we’re going to meet support. So, one of the goals of this particular program is that it engages people and challenges them in being a bit more proactive in promoting that value of civility,” VanKirk said.
This year is also the first year the NOH8 campaign was brought to one of Tarleton’s outreach campuses. VanKirk explained that all students from the Tarleton campuses deserve the same amount of advocacy and that in the future ODIIP hopes they can provide that space for all students.
“We’ve been very invested in trying to make sure we serve our students on every campus. What that looks like is different on every campus. What we can do in Stephenville is different than what I can do in Fort Worth. That does not mean these students don’t get the same advocacy and engagement. It just means we have to shape it differently. This is our first time bringing [NOH8] to Fort Worth but we hope to do that more in the future,” VanKirk said.
For VanKirk this event is especially important. VanKirk explained that being a queer student in their undergrad, they felt invisible, but now as staff they want to be that support for students in the same situation.
“I was a queer student in undergrad. I felt invisible and like other people weren’t necessarily going to have my back in instances of discrimination, homophobia or transphobia. This campaign is important to me especially now. We have the opportunity, particularly as faculty and staff to visually indicate that we will be there for our students should they face that same kind of push back,” VanKirk said.
While the campaign started as a way to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, a lot has changed since 2009. VanKirk stressed that this campaign is open to all people who are discriminated against and need a place to be accepted.
“I would like to remind people that this campaign has roots in LGBTQ+ affirmation, but we are advocating for anti-discrimination period. We’re including people who may face discrimination relating to race, religion or anything. We’re broadening the focus to include anyone which is very important,” VanKirk said.
VanKirk expressed their excitement as we, as a campus community move forward. The new strategic plan, Tarleton Forward: 2030, which we will follow for the next decade, includes a goal of campus diversity.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to see the growth in diversity initiatives and our academic affairs and I’m very excited to see how diversity, inclusion and equity become fundamental as we move into the new strategic plan for 2030. This will be the second strategic plan I’ve seen here at Tarleton, and they’ve accomplished nearly everything on the first one so I can’t see why they won’t kick ass on the second,” VanKirk said.
If you’d like to learn more about the NOH8 campaign you can check out their official website at: http://www.noh8campaign.com/.
If you’d like to see how Tarleton participated you can follow the ODIIP @tarletondiversity on Instagram.
While they currently have no events planned for the rest of the semester, to learn about upcoming events that Tarleton’s ODIIP will plan for next semester you can stay up to date by following their website at: