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IC Students Hold Teach-In About Alleged LGBTQ+ Discrimination in Campus Protestant Community

Key Points:

  • Vanessa Zimmerman and Annalise Haldeman are two Ithaca College students who feel discriminated against by the IC Protestant Community after coming out as a couple.
  • To share their story, they held a teach-in event last Thursday, which was attended by members and administration within a number of religious communities on campus.
  • Their petition has received over 1,000 signatures in less than two weeks.

An Outcry

A classroom located in a small nook in Ithaca College known as Job Hall was flooded by students and faculty who turned out for a teach-in during the lunch hour on April 25.

The teach-in was organized by Vanessa Zimmerman and Annalise Haldeman, two former members of Ithaca College’s Protestant community who say they faced criticism and harassment after coming out publicly as a couple last fall.

News about the alleged incident spread throughout the campus, spawning a petition and the creation of posters stating that “IC Funds Homophobia.”

Posters like these were hung all across Ithaca College’s campus to promote the teach-in.

“We went to bed, we were happy, we were fine,” Haldeman explained, “and next morning we received a range of messages from students, adult leaders… mentors to Vanessa, who were very clear that what she was doing was sinful, what she was doing was selfish… acting out of lustfulness, and telling Vanessa that she wouldn’t have gone to this place alone, that I had led her to this place.”

It wasn’t always that way. Zimmerman previously served as president of the Protestant community. Joining a religious group was one of her top priorities going into college.

“I came on campus and I knew I wanted two things,” she said during the event. “I needed to plug into CAPS [Counseling and Psychological Services] and I needed to go to the chapel to find a faith-based community. That was where I ended up, how I entered the Protestant community.”

Zimmerman said that, after years of identity struggle, she eventually had to step down from the leadership role. After coming out, she reported that a number of her former peers came up to her and told her that they were glad she stepped down from the role specifically because of her sexual orientation.

“[These stories] are our truths,” Haldeman said to attendees of the event. “They may not reflect what you have experienced but that’s okay, because you’re here to hear our truth.”

Vanessa Zimmerman, left; and Annalise Haldeman, right.

In Love

With support from fellow students and faculty, Zimmerman and Haldeman decided to take action. They created a petition earlier this month demanding that the college stop funding the IC Protestant community until they take action to combat the alleged homophobia and racism.

The petition has received over 1,000 signatures to date.

Once the petition formally closes, the next step for Zimmerman and Haldeman is to deliver the signatures to IC’s administration. In the meantime, Thursday’s teach-in enabled them to share their story and get more people to understand the situation.

Among the listeners were members and leaders in Ithaca College’s religious communities, including Rev. James Touchton, Protestant chaplain at IC, and Fr. Carsten Martensen, director of campus ministry for IC’s Catholic community.

“I just want all the students to know that we are open to everyone and care for everyone,” Martensen stated. “Our language and our postures may sometimes give away attitudes that we don’t actually have or want to have.”

Their message spread and their story heard, it’s clear that Zimmerman and Haldeman have, at the very least, started a dialogue.

“I don’t think the things we are asking are radical,” Zimmerman said, “to have every part of IC adhere to the mission and guiding principles that the college stands by.”

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