Following a few years of controversy, the Protestant Community (PC) at Ithaca College has taken steps to be more welcoming, a decision that signifies a new era for the community.
In the 2017–18 academic year, members of the PC reported being discriminated against because of their LGBTQ identities. This conflict was poorly addressed and resulted in a New York State Division of Human Rights complaint being filed against the college, and the chaplain stepped down.
The community has recently rebranded and is now named the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship (LCF). The name change is a well-intentioned first step to improving a community that faced years of turmoil. The students who now make up the community are a mainly new group that is working to prove LCF is not the PC.
However, there also needs to be action taking place to ensure the name change is not just covering up the group’s problematic past. The college is known for being one of the most friendly LGBTQ campuses, and all spaces on campus must be welcoming to LGBTQ students, including the chapel.
While there have been efforts to improve the messaging for a new generation of community members, LCF needs to commit itself to creating a community that is welcoming to all new members. Changing the culture of a group is not something that happens overnight, but if every member of LCF is committed to implementing real change, it is possible.
Other initiatives, like the Uncommon Changemakers program, will help LCF interact with the greater college community. The new initiative aims to connect students who do not have religious affiliations with those who do. By having both religious and nonreligious students interact, there will be an exchange of ideas and values, a change that will hopefully benefit all involved.
The group’s past should be remembered, but LCF has shown it wants to change, and the college community will be stronger if it does.