Five Student Clubs Co-Sponsor 'Straight But Not Narrow'
The "Straight But Not Narrow" event began with a slide projected on two screens in the classroom. It was a simple quiz. How and when did you first decide to become heterosexual? Do you believe heterosexuality is just a phase? Why do you heterosexual people always try to seduce people into your lifestyle?
Jason Klein '12 read off the questions, turned to the audience, and cracked a wry smile. "It really sounds absurd when you swap 'heterosexual' for 'homosexual,' doesn't it?" he asked. The quiz was intended to bring levity to what can be a very serious discussion. Klein said, "We can have some fun with diversity and learn at the same time."
"Straight But Not Narrow: Why Taking Diversity Not So Seriously Can Make a Serious Impact," held December 2 at Yale SOM, was sponsored by several student clubs — Q+, Human Capital Club, Women in Management, the Consulting Club, and the Finance Club. Students wrote and performed three skits aimed at illustrating issues facing SOM students, both in social and work-related situations. The primary audience was straight students. "Real change comes from straight allies," Klein said. "There's a greater benefit when it comes from people who are not the minority."
Before coming to SOM, Klein worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he facilitated a similar event. The format proved successful, and what had originally been just for the London office where he worked expanded to other PwC locations. He redesigned the concept to better fit SOM and began enlisting people to help. While he hoped people would be enthusiastic to help, he didn't expect the reception that the workshop received. But five clubs quickly signed on to cosponsor "Straight but Not Narrow," while a rotating group of students helped Klein create new skits. "It became a true school-wide event," he said. "The variety of people who ended up coming was extremely surprising. I expected it could have been just my friends, but the place was packed."
The three "Straight but Not Narrow" skits were acted out by a combination of students, staff, and faculty and represented situations probably familiar to many students. In the first, an older potential employer made inappropriate comments to a lesbian student who was interested in an internship. The second skit showed students making homophobic remarks while at a restaurant. And in the third skit, another group of students gossiped over the sexuality of another student.
During each skit, Klein stopped the action and solicited audience participation on how people should react. Some students suggested trying humor as a way to gently make clear they didn't approve of the remarks and actions, while others favored a more direct rebuke. "There's no easy answer," Klein said. "You just don't know how someone's going to respond."
The exercise took up an hour of time during the busiest part of the semester, yet the room was packed. Heidi Brooks, lecturer in organizational behavior, noted how well the event fit into the school's mission of educating leaders for business and society. "It's not just abstract," she said. "It's about how you go about creating a society you want to be a part of; how you create it by your presence. Leaders can create a culture of acceptance. It happens like this, in very small conversations."