Amy Ashenden presents the first instalment of the Wessex Scene’s new LGBT series.

University of Southampton’s LGBT Network has set up a public Facebook page to raise its awareness, and plans are underway for LGBT History Month 2013.

Aimed to complement the SUSU LGBT Society, the network for postgraduate students and staff provides social space and a forum for feedback on how well the university is supporting them. Whilst the network was founded in July 2010, after the university became a Stonewall Diversity Champion in the February. The public Facebook page was set up recently to reach out to PHD students and staff that may not be aware of its private group.

Its chair, Alex Melhuish, told the Wessex Scene: “We feel it’s important to offer PhD students an environment that supports aspiring researchers and professionals, through networking with LGBT colleagues in the University – both socially and professionally.”

He added: “the Network recognizes the importance of social media in reaching people and enabling discussion,” with the private group being “used to raise awareness of events with the 41 members,”… some people just pay more attention to Facebook!

The group itself is used to discuss issues relating to the Network and being gay or transsexual as a member of staff at the University. It’s kept secret because members were apprehensive about being outed to students, and this was the best way to keep the membership of the group private.

The Facebook page, I set up a few weeks ago, as I realised the Network was missing a public presence…I wanted to make sure we were reaching all potential members. So this page is similar to the website: it promotes the Network, its values, its purpose and invites new members to sign up.”

The Wessex Scene also spoke to events organiser Professor Mark Cornwall about its upcoming plans for LGBT month. Two events have been organised so far, a Stonewall Lecture open to all students and a workshop, both to be held at Avenue campus. The annual lecture will see the author of ‘Gay Culture in postwar New York: Community Creation and Conflict,’ Professor George Chauncey of Yale University, as the key speaker on Thursday 21st February.

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