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Monday 08 November 2010

Something to glow about

Posted in: Events, Community
By Jacqui Stanford - 2nd August 2010

Sheridan Smith
There is a shadow looming over the heads of queer student groups in the form of a bill which would make student union membership voluntary. However the potential threat to funding seems to have made the president of one such group, Out@AUT's Sheridan Smith, even more determined to make sure glbt students on his campus are taken care of.

The club has organised a fundraiser in the form of Glow, a "fun, wild night" which will be held at K' Rd's Rising Sun this Friday night, featuring DJs A.D.A.M. and Will Brandon. There will be black lights and punters are encouraged to wear bright clothing, or even brave a glow stick.

Smith says when he took over as president of Out@AUT, which is a smallish club run by a committee of four people, his two key aims were creating a safe space for glbt students, as well as a social environment so they can enjoy each other's company.

"And Glow is a little bit about that. Glow is about raising funds for the club. And basically it's just an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down, come out, enjoy the night out, dress up and for us to make a little bit of money," he says.

"We're not looking to make screeds; it's only $10 entry. It's about getting together and have a good time – and getting as many people from as diverse backgrounds as possible to come together and dance the night away."

Sheridan emphasises the event is not just for AUT students, but for everyone. "Gay, straight, it's not exclusive. We just want as many people there as possible, to have as good a time as possible."

It's a nervous time for student groups, with a Government select committee considering a bill which would make student union membership voluntary. If it's eventually passed, it's likely queer student groups like Out@AUT would face significant cuts in funding.

Smith is determined to keep the group running and there to help students going through tough times. "I'm aware of students who have come out to their parents – and their parents don't want them living in the house anymore. They kick them out. They're left with nowhere to go. And a lot of the times we can step in and, while we may not be able to house them, we can give them the right contacts and support people."

He is concerned that will disappear and it will be up to individual students to help each other. He is worried they may not know where to go or what contacts to utilise. "If the bill goes through and funding is not compulsory anymore, I think that's what we're going to see happening."

Smith says for most people, university is the most liberating period of their life. "Usually you're away from home. You're interacting with a whole bunch of diverse people, seeing the world in completely different ways."

He points to his own background, coming from boarding school and being the son of an ex-army and ex-police dad. "Five years at Auckland Grammar. So it was all pretty like, straight up and down regimented."

Smith says when he got to university he was challenged with new people and new ideas, "it's a confusing time in anyone's life. So when you're going through that time, it's nice to know there are people out there."

Out@AUT runs a drop-in every Friday from 12-1 in the Rainbow Room, WU021. Anyone is welcome to come along with their lunch and have a casual chat.

Glow, Friday 6 August, 10pm till late at the Rising Sun, K' Rd. $10 entry.

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Jacqui Stanford - 2nd August 2010