Like most alumni affinity groups, GALA serves as a social and professional networking outlet for its members. Our summer and winter socials, spring theater outing, and monthly meetings are valuable ways for LGBTQ alumni to connect with one another.
What makes GALA different from most groups of its kind, however, is its involvement in campus-based advocacy. In the past 5 years, GALA has protested Chik-Fil-A on campus, supported the efforts of Freedom at Emory to grant financial aid to undocumented students, publicly opposed the Candler School of Theology’s decision to present anti-gay church leader H. Eddie Fox with a Distinguished Alumni award, and, most recently, lobbied the President to request that Emory oppose discriminatory statewide legislation.
In October, the GALA Steering Committee wrote to President Wagner to ask that Emory take a public stand against so-called religious freedom bills that threaten to erode rights for LGBTQ Georgians. After exchanging emails throughout the fall semester, we invited President Wagner to join us for our January meeting. We were delighted when he, along with Jerry Lewis, Sr. vice President for Communications and Public Affairs; Sarah Cook, Sr. Associate Vice President for Emory Alumni Association; Cameron Taylor, Vice President for Government and Community Affairs; Evan Goldberg, Special Assistant to the President; and Jessie Arnidis, Director of Development, Campus Life and Athletics, agreed to attend our meeting and engage in a dialogue with us regarding Emory’s stance on these legislative initiatives. Our conversation with the President and his colleagues was engaging, informative, respectful, and enlightening, and we were thrilled to learn that Emory has indeed joined Georgia Prospers, a coalition of businesses and organizations that oppose discriminatory legislation on the grounds that it’s both unethical and bad for business.
As alumni, we see it as our responsibility to hold our alma mater to the highest standards of accountability and ethical engagement, particularly when it comes to matters of access, equity, and inclusion. Emory does not exist in a bubble; as an employer and an institution of higher learning, we are part of Atlanta’s community and a landmark of which Georgia should be proud. We therefore applaud President Wagner’s decision to join Georgia Prospers and send a clear message to our state legislature that LGBTQ students, employees, and alumni are valued at Emory. Furthermore, we are grateful that President Wagner and his colleagues took the time to sit down and talk with us at length about issues that are critical to GALA’s members, and we look forward to building a similarly mutually supportive and transparent relationship with his successor.
If you’d like to get involved with GALA’s advocacy efforts, please join us the second Tuesday of every month at 6pm for dinner and our monthly meeting in the Miller Ward Alumni House.
Aby Parsons, 13G
Co-Chair, GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni