JAMESTOWN – Members of the LGBTQ+ community at SUNY JCC will be holding a protest in the wake of a decision by the college to feature former State Senator Catharine Young as its keynote speaker for a virtual commencement ceremony Friday.
Doctor Greg Rabb told WNY News Now that he is currently organizing a “last-minute” protest that will occur at 6 p.m. Friday evening at the flagpole located by the campus pond around the time that the ceremony is scheduled to take place.
Rabb, an openly gay faculty member, spoke during the Jamestown Pride meeting Tuesday evening. Rabb says that the decision to host Young is something that he is “vehemently against,” adding that Young has voted against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community on “at least two occasions.”
“We find that completely unacceptable, and the president (President Daniel DeMarte) said he’s not pulling it back,” Rabb said. “We have protested again, and now the college is in turmoil. It’s hurting and killing the college. I have LGBTQ students who are in pain.”
Rabb says that those on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force will not be attending any events that SUNY JCC will officially be involved with unless the President removes Young from the program.
As of Thursday morning, Rabb tells WNY News Now that he is still trying to get DeMarte to remove Young as the speaker. Rabb is urging people to call the President’s office at 716-338-1060.
“I feel like I’m expendable because I’m gay,” Rabb said. Rabb says he’s been employed by the college for 35 years.
WNY News Now reached out to the President’s office for comment. DeMarte released the following statement:
“Our college is committed to making sure that all voices and backgrounds are heard. As such, I am incredibly appreciative of the depth of sentiment that has been shared regarding our selection of Catharine Young to serve as our keynote speaker for our pre-recorded commencement ceremony on May 14 that will premiere on the college’s website.
We understand the passion and difficulty surrounding these conversations and I am cognizant that former Senator Young speaking is disappointing to some members of our community. In the spirit of supporting the free exchange of ideas, we will be working with former Senator Young to provide our students an opportunity for an important dialogue to continue our efforts in making Jamestown Community College a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. The conversations we are having are important in helping us learn and grow together, and they confirm the importance of our work in making DEI a priority for this college community.
I would like to make clear that Jamestown Community College does not discriminate against any individual on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, marital or domestic partner status, race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, veteran or military status, family care status, age, or any other characteristic. Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.
Our goal in developing the pre-recorded ceremony is to honor each and every graduate that has persevered through a period not seen in our lifetime. Their work is inspiring and we look forward to celebrating their achievements.”