TAYLORSVILLE — Salt Lake Community College dedicated a "pride crosswalk" Monday as a gesture of inclusivity for LGBT students, faculty and staff.
The multicolored crosswalk in front of the Student Center at the college's Taylorsville Redwood Campus was a project months in the making, according to President Deneece Huftalin.
But Monday's dedication became "profound in the sense of the timing," she said, after 50 people were killed and 53 others were wounded in a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, an incident described as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
"This is a hard day," Huftalin said, trying to suppress tearful emotion. "But the thing that gets you through a horrible tragedy like this is to see this kind of power and love and caring that stands against hate. And as much as we want to be full of grief and mourn, as much as we might want to hate back or be angry, a better way to deal with those kinds of words or actions is to stand in unity and support."
Huftalin was joined by other administrators, faculty and students who jointly unveiled the new crosswalk. The group, many of them wearing colorful tie-dye shirts, walked and danced on the newly painted walkway after its dedication.
SLCC's Jordan and South City campuses will also install pride crosswalks in the coming weeks.
"Although it is only made from different colors of paint on asphalt, it is a symbol that matters," said Chuck Lepper, vice president for student affairs. "It matters to the person who may be questioning. It matters to the person who is seeking a safe harbor. It matters to the person who is seeking validation. It matters to the person who just wants to be themself."
Aynoa Rincon, a student at SLCC, said Monday was the first time she attended an event in support of the LGBT community, but she hopes the crosswalk will be a visible token of appreciation for student diversity.
"For me, it's important to support our community here on campus," Rincon said. "It was a really good idea to make this event. After what happened (Sunday), it is important to let everyone know that they are human, we all should respect each other. Even though we're all different, we all should talk with each other, include everyone.
"Everyone from that community will know that they're welcome on this campus," she said.
Huftalin said the college has numerous students, faculty and staff who are members of the LGBT community, though data isn't available to quantify that population on campus.
She said students' academic success depends largely on how welcome and supported they feel at the institution, and the crosswalk is a visual representation of that support.
"I think it's kind of a symbolic welcome," Huftalin said. "We wanted to send a signal that Salt Lake Community College is very inclusive, that we understand students, staff and faculty walk through our doors with multiple identities. We want whatever those identities are to feel included and a sense of belonging on our campus. You can learn better, you can grow better and develop better if you feel like you matter, and they do."
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