Allyship at UW-Eau Claire can be as simple as baked goods

From baked goods being dropped off in the GSRC to campus events, allyship and pride is hard to miss at UW-Eau Claire.

Anyone can be an ally because showing kindness to others doesn’t require grand gestures. 
© Dorothy Baker, 2023

“Anyone can be an ally because showing kindness to others doesn’t require grand gestures.” © Dorothy Baker, 2023

Dorothy Baker

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center has been a designated safe space for LGBTQIA+ students for the past 10 years. It’s decorated with many rainbows and comfy furniture for LGBTQIA+ students to socialize, study and rest.  

On Mondays, visitors can enjoy different baked goods, including cookies, brownies or banana bread. The baked goods are packaged in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and set on the table by the window. The professor leaving them includes a business card and a motivational note.  

“I leave my name on the goodies so that students in the [GSRC] know that I am an ally and that they can come to me for support,” said Jean Pratt, the associate dean of the College of Business “Otherwise, I generally prefer to work in the background.”   

While providing baked goods is not a necessity, the sweet gesture helps point students to another ally on campus.

Thomas Rouhoniemi, a geography major at UWEC who generally visits the GSRC on Monday evenings, said “when someone bakes for you it’s usually because they love you.”  

“I think everyone wants to feel seen and accepted for who they are so a gesture where someone is specifically showing they care about a group of people who have identity struggles sometimes, feels affirming,” he said.

Pratt’s baked goods are just one piece of the campus support network for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Professors may also show their commitment to inclusivity by asking students to share their pronouns while introducing themselves, having respectful conversations about identity through coursework and posting a safe space sticker outside their offices.   

This comes at a time when the number of proposed anti-LGBTQIA+ continues to be record-setting. In 2023 alone there have been over 450 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed in state legislatures nationwide according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

UWEC housing offers gender-inclusive options such as the Rainbow Floors in Karlgaard Towers Hall and a planned expansion into The Suites come fall 2023. Identity-based student organizations like campus PRIDE and others, help students connect with other individuals with similar experiences.

Beyond identity-based clubs “there are lots of clubs on campus that are accepting. I’ve gone to geography meetings and … there is a lot of representation there that isn’t cisgender straight people,” Ruohoniemi said. 

The campus community strives to ensure that students know they are accepted and not just tolerated by “hosting events and making Queer people feel seen and that there are fun things they can do with other people like them if they so wish,” he said.

Allyship comes in many forms, “It’s just small things, you don’t have to go around dressed in rainbow colors,” Rouhoniemi said. “There’s no gesture too small, even just saying hello can make someone feel good.”

Baker can be reached at [email protected]