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Pride Week renamed to Spring Fest, results in frustration

Lily Kincaid
Students holding Pride flags during April 2021. The week dedicated to queer programming at App State was previously known as Pride Week but has been changed to Spring Fest.

Every year, the Henderson Springs LGBTQ+ Center hosts a queer-themed programming week dedicated to celebrating the queer community on campus. In the past, the week was known as Pride Week, but this year the name for the week has been changed to Spring Fest. 

The Henderson Springs LGBTQ+ Center’s 2024 Spring Fest, which is held April 1-6 this year, has been disapproved by community members and students for the programming’s name.

Megan Hayes, chief communications officer for App State, wrote in an email to The Appalachian stating, “The programs and the name were created by members of the university community, and presented by the university’s Henderson Springs LGBTQ+ Center.”

The center is named after Bo Henderson and Ed Springs, who Hayes describes as “valued and important members of the university’s history.” 

The LGBTQ+ Center released a statement saying, “Spring Fest 2024 is a celebration of the vibrant uniqueness within the Queer community. Throughout the week-long programming, we aim to create inclusive spaces where every identity is celebrated.”

Cody Michael Henderson is the associate director for Intercultural Affairs and pro-staff lead for the LGBTQ+ Center. He said he was not present at the first meeting in which the name change was discussed and was not sure who was in the meeting. However, he was looped in about the name change after the meeting and was asked what name the week could be given.

“This is not a case where advertisements for these activities went out and were later changed,” Hayes wrote.

According to the LGBTQ+ Center website, events were “designed to educate, empower, and unite Mountaineers of all identities, especially our LGBTQ+ community of App State. Spring Fest promises an enriching experience for everyone.”

Henderson said one reason the name Spring Fest was used for the week was to promote a more inclusive environment, and for those who don’t identify within the LGBTQ+ community to also feel educated and welcomed during the events happening throughout the week.

“Anyone queer or non-queer can enjoy our programming,” Henderson said.

However, members of the community have expressed their dissatisfaction with Pride Week no longer being used as the name for queer programming.

“People should not be turned away by the word pride,” said Benadryl, co-founder of Boone Barbies, a local drag house. 

Molly Pocket, co-founder of Boone Barbies, said the word pride is educational in and of itself.

“I feel that without having that proper branding, people don’t have access to know that these events are happening and that are educational,” Molly Pocket said.

In an Instagram post from the App State College Democrats, the renaming of the week to Spring Fest was listed as an “assault on freedom of speech & expression.” Additionally, the Graduate Student Government Association believes university administration is “hiding or even denouncing their support of the LGBTQ2IA+ community,” as stated in a resolution created.

The name change has also been brought up in recent SGA meetings.  

“It’s definitely queer erasure,” said Molly Pocket. “It’s not allowing people to see that we are having queer events and creating queer spaces.”

In response to community feedback, Henderson held “Candid Conversations: LGBTQ+ Concerns,” in which he welcomed people to speak with him at the LGBTQ+ Center to discuss concerns.

“I understand the frustration,” Henderson said. “But I also understand and respect and support decisions that have been made to respect the integrity and accessibility in maintaining queer programming resources on campus.”

The remaining events for Spring Fest are as follows:

  •  Wellness and Prevention Services’ Sexual Health Expo held on Wednesday.
  •  LGBTQ+ Expressive Arts Event held on Wednesday.
  • Campus Support and Network Trivia held on Thursday.
  • Graduate Student LGBTQ+ Center Takeover held on Thursday.
  • LGBTQ+ 1st Thursday Graduate Meeting: Spring Fest Edition held on Thursday.
  • Ice Cream for Spring! LGBTQ+ Spring Fest Ice Cream Social held on Friday.
  • Studying Abroad While Out in the World held on Saturday.

For more information, one can see the Spring Fest schedule on the LGBTQ+ Center’s website. Henderson said he is open and accessible to having more conversations about any concerns. 

Additionally, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs JJ Brown wrote in an email to students Tuesday saying, “I hear and understand the concerns related to the title change of the week this year, and we will absolutely take this into account as we plan events for next year.”

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About the Contributors
Jenna Guzman, Editor-in-Chief
Jenna Guzman (she/her) is a junior journalism and public relations double major with a media studies minor. This is her third year working for The Appalachian.
Lily Kincaid, Associate A&C Editor
Lily Kincaid (she/her) is a senior journalism major and media studies minor from Lenoir, NC.  
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  • S

    ShayApr 4, 2024 at 4:22 pm

    100% agree with Alison’s comment. Thanks for covering this story. This is absolute queer erasure and it sounds like Henderson is complicit and not a champion for LGBTQ+ students. Apostate shows its anti-LGBT bias yet again while its LGBTQ+ students are some of its strongest and most involved, most successful and innovative students. LGBTQ + Alumni and prospective students notice.

  • A

    Alison GulleyApr 4, 2024 at 9:02 am

    I call BS on the reasons for the name change, not to mention that if it were really in honor of Ed Springs, it would be Springs. And if non-LGBTQ+ folks are scared off by the word “pride,” I sincerely doubt they’d be showing up to a celebration of all identities even with a new name.