"I was desperate for a space on campus where I could have taken my questions and fears"
Dear Dr. Westmoreland,
During my senior year at Samford, I lived in a large house that was owned by the university. My roommates and I were enthusiastic students, high achievers, and campus leaders. Shortly after your arrival at Samford, we invited you, your wife, and your daughter to dine with us in that home. We were very excited and honored that you accepted the invitation to share a meal with us.
Unfortunately, my memories of the evening are somewhat hazy as I was going through a particularly difficult time. I had known that I’m gay for about 2 years when you came to our house that night and sat down for food and conversation. I had been living in a closet of fear for far too long, and it had taken a serious toll on me. The thing I remember most about my senior year at Samford isn’t graduation day, getting excited about my bright future, or enjoying the final months with my friends on campus. The thing I remember most was feeling like I no longer wanted to live. I remember thinking that dying must be less painful than living hidden away, clutching this secret to my chest.
I realize that is a very heavy statement to make, but please know that there’s no reason to worry about me now. Those feelings of anxiety went away very quickly after I graduated, found an off-campus counselor, came out to my family, and started being open and honest with the people I love most. At Samford, I had been afraid to lose my scholarship, terrified to alienate my friends, and worried that talking about what I was dealing with could affect my future or even my safety. I was desperate for a space on campus where I could have taken my questions and fears.
The story I just shared illustrates one of the many reasons why I think it’s so important that you and the Board of Trustees approve Samford Together as a university-sanctioned student group. To me, it is one of the best ways that Samford can help prevent tragedies related to LGBT issues. It’s a way to show love first with dialogue to follow. I realize that you and I differ in our beliefs on the topic of LGBT issues like marriage and partnership, but I know that we agree when it comes to our belief that students should not feel isolated, afraid, or suicidal on campus. Not having an organization like Samford Together has been detrimental to students’ mental wellness for decades. Countless students and alumni have sought me out over the past several years to share stories like the one I just shared with you—about feeling that they had no path forward.
I’m proud to lead the SAFE Samford community, which is now well over 700 people strong. We are active alumni members, students, staff, faculty, and retired faculty. We attend Homecoming, we donate to the university, and we encourage prospective students to choose Samford, but we also remain worried that current students are living with the same fears that many of us once lived with on campus. For the last 6 years, we’ve been doing our best to mitigate those fears, and we’ll continue to support any efforts that help do so.
As this conversation continues, I think you’ll find that far more Samford constituents are supportive of LGBT equality than you are aware of at present. I hope that you will open your heart to our messages and that you will reconsider your current position regarding Samford Together. These students are just as deserving as other students on campus. They’ve done the work, they’ve followed the guidelines, and they’ve been deferent. It’s time to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve in return.
With respect and kindness,
Brit Blalock, Class of ‘08
Founder & Director of SAFE Samford