“It Gets Better” is a viral video project created as an effort to show that regardless how cruelly people behave, things will inevitably improve with time. Elmhurst College contributed their own “It Gets Better” video, part of a larger series entitled “Out at Elmhurst,” where students and faculty explained how welcoming Elmhurst was to the LGBT community. To see what this experience has been like, and, in the spirit of “It Gets Better,” The Leader spoke to a few of the people involved. Photos by Emily Mohney.
As an associate director of admissions, Christine Grenier was not only featured in “Out at Elmhurst,” she was directly involved in its production. What started as an interchange between marketing and admissions quickly took shape.
“We started talking about the importance of having a website, and having a place where students could find information, and so with that, we just kicked around ideas, and because of the Elmhurst Experience videos, we wanted to do something similar to that.”
Grenier stresses the importance of visibility, which she feels is the dominant idea behind “Out at Elmhurst”— making it clear what the components of the Elmhurst community are.
“Whether it’s in a prospective student, a current student, a fellow staff member, or a faculty member, they understand and see what Elmhurst is about–and that we embrace our core values.”
As far as the next step that Elmhurst should take, Grenier finds it more appropriate to wait for a response from students. She believes that the admission question about sexuality was the right thing to do, but it is too early to tell what sort of effect it will have.
“Until we start having have multiple years of data, we won’t be able to see what the trends are. Any data that we might have now is a snapshot of a very small group of people, quite frankly. So to make grand assumptions about a small group of people is really not the best thing to do.”
However, she is confident that when students do exercise their voice, the school will now be in a better position to serve their needs.
While making the rounds as an RA in West Hall, Joey Carrillo was greeted with a surprise when he found something tacked onto one of his bulletin boards.
“It was a Wisconsin Gazette—which I think is a gay-central newspaper in the greater area of Wisconsin—and my picture was in there. It was a big, full picture of me with a story, and I was like, ‘Woah! I had no idea.’”
As he later found out, Carrillo’s image from “Out at Elmhurst” was being published in various newspapers and magazines as a means to advertise the inclusivity of Elmhurst’s community.
“It was a surreal moment. People are noticing. People are looking at me as sort of an icon, because there aren’t very many out, gay, male presences on campus.”
Carrillo feels that the “Out at Elmhurst” video series has been well-received, noting that many people have found them both inspirational and professionally done. Additionally, Carrillo has nothing but praise for Elmhurst and its tolerant atmosphere.
“Since my freshman year here, I’ve never really been afraid to be myself. I’m at the point where I know nobody is going to judge me, and I know that nobody is going to care and that people are going to accept me.”
Of course, there is always room for improvement, and Carrillo believes that there could be more of a push in its advertising, but overall he is happy with the course that Elmhurst is taking.
Though a participant in Elmhurst’s “It Gets Better” video, Felicia Diaz previously expressed some hesitation regarding the nature of the project.
“I had talked to someone about the idea of “It Gets Better,” like, ‘deal with it for now, but it gets better.’ It took me a while to understand that because I don’t think anyone should have to deal with it now.”
In light of the disturbing trend of LGBT teens being bullied to the brink of suicide, turning the other cheek might appear too passive of a response. However, this concern was momentary, and Diaz jumped at the chance to share her positivity.
“I think the most powerful way to communicate with people—and to stop [abuse] from happening—is to just reach out to others and share your own positive experiences and hopes; to give someone that light to look forward to.”
Diaz commends Elmhurst College in the steps it has taken to make its environment so egalitarian. The admission question about sexuality was a milestone, but she notes that there is still work to be done.
“I think the best thing I can say is good for Elmhurst for being one of the first people to address it, but I think we have a long way to go. I don’t think this is the end. It’s a good first start, but we still need to keep pushing on and educating people.”
Diaz hopes that the college will implement courses over queer studies and gender studies, and also address the issue of transgender housing in order to truly become the environment it wishes to be.