The Pride Project at RIT

The first thing you see when entering the Student Alumni Union (SAU) is a big rainbow flag with a panel besides it that states, “The Rainbow or Pride flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker as a symbol of unity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. This flag is raised to honor past, present, and future gender and sexual minorities at RIT, as well as the allies who support them.”

The Pride Flag installation in the SAU

As years progressed, this flag became a normal part of RIT life; greeting everyone who walked into the SAU with vibrant rainbow colors. It is the simple act of installing this flag that has spoken for RIT’s inclusive community, which was the vision Dr. Chris Henry Hinesley, the person who successfully led the Pride Project with the help of the RIT community.

 

Dr. Chris Henry Hinesley

The idea came to him after admiring the many flags that hang in the SAU in 2011. “I realized there wasn’t a Pride flag and started asking questions,” says Dr. Hinesley. The questions traveled, as many did not know how to answer such a question. This wasn’t something thought of before, but Dr. Hinesley persisted.

Eventually, this idea made it’s way to Carol Reed who streamlined it right to the Campus Aesthetics Committee. “It was perfect timing as the space was already going to be cleared,” mentioned Dr. Hinesley. He envisioned a small flag in a glass case to ensure it was protected from vandalism and theft, but the committee insisted on something bigger with no case.

In a time where LGBTQIA identities were accepted but still a difficult discussion, Dr. Hinesley worried about the response to this flag being put up. However, in the time since, he never heard anything bad about it. In fact, he’s known it to be a beneficial presence for current and future students. On the impact of students, Dr. Hinesley remembers, “students telling me when they saw the flag during campus visits, they immediately transferred or decided to come here.”

First visions of the Pride flag in the SAU

Since the flag has been installed, the LGBTQIA community at RIT has seen great change. A leader and an advocate, Dr. Hinesley finds himself busy working with departments across campus to ensure proper protocol is in place to respect the identity of students, faculty and staff. Adding preferred names into the system, creating gender inclusive bathrooms, and SafeZone training for over 1,000 people every year is just some of the ways RIT is creating a more inclusive environment for the community.

Throughout his time at RIT, Dr. Hinesley was most pleased by how supportive and open RIT is when it comes to implementing change that positively impacts LGBTQIA students. “There are a number of times where faculty and staff would approach me with questions to ensure they’re doing the right thing.” This attitude is what inspired the creation of Q Center Advisory Team (QCAT), where faculty from all across RIT can become more involved with the center. A complete list of those on the advisory can be found here.

As Pride Month continues, the flag in the SAU serves as a reminder to the kind of campus RIT is; one that strives for diversity and inclusiveness in its function and community.

 

Red Barn Climbing Gym: A Brief History

RIT’s Red Barn Climbing Gym is the oldest building on campus. Built in 1908, the structure we now call the Red Barn belonged to local farmers until RIT purchased the land on which it sat during our transition to the Henrietta campus in 1968.

Initially, the barn’s intended use was as a night spot where dances, banquets, concerts and other parties could be held. During the planning phase, which lasted from early spring of 1968 to that same fall, the barn was nicknamed the “Beer Barn.” That October, the project of converting the barn into a student activities building was dropped due to cost, in favor of building a student area on what were then picnic grounds.

Originally, the main building that is the Red Barn we know it to be today had a smaller, accessory barn branching off the side and a silo opposite that. Today, only the main barn remains.

Following the halt in conversion plans, Facilities Management Services used the Red Barn to store their equipment until the building was cleaned out to make room for an outdoors adventure program, which included rock climbing, in 1982.

Students participating in a team-building activity in 1988
Students participating in a team-building activity in 1988

It was only in 2005 that the Red Barn Climbing Gym, as we know it today, was established.

The Red Barn, rustically charming as ever, is now consider by many to be the premier climbing location in Western New York. It hosts 40 RIT classes and brings in around 25,000 visitors per year! If you’ve never climbed before, there are beginner routes as well as a variety of walls to climb, including a top-rope wall, a top-off wall and bouldering caves downstairs. The best part is that RIT students receive a climbing discount when they present their school IDs.

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Information on the Red Barn Climbing Gym’s rates and schedule can be found here on their website, or you can call for more information at (585) 292-6571.

To stay updated on Red Barn Climbing news and events, you can follow their Facebook.