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April 23, 2024

Student view: Finding my purpose in PRISM

Jacen Scaggs is a second-year student majoring in social relations and policy and comparative cultures and politics at James Madison College and pursuing a minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and sexuality studies. He is a member of PRISM, Michigan State University’s South Neighborhood LGBT Caucus, and serves as secretary in the Michigan Federation of College Democrats.

Jacen Scaggs

Ever since I was a little kid, Michigan State has been my dream school. So, after getting an acceptance letter from every school I applied to, including Michigan State, the University of Michigan, Central Michigan University and Michigan Tech, it was a no-brainer to decide to come to MSU. I also got literature from MSU regarding James Madison College and, upon doing some research, I was sold and decided to enter the program.

Since attending MSU, I’ve become more outgoing and sociable. Back in high school, I was very much stuck in the same friend group and rarely talked with people I wasn’t familiar with. Yet, here at Michigan State, I am very comfortable meeting new people and open to people coming up and talking to me.

Finding community

One day, during my first week on campus, I was scrolling through the MSU Discord server list and noticed that there was a South Neighborhood LGBT Caucus, so I joined the server, and the rest is history. In my head, I was like, “OMG, fellow queer people in my neighborhood?!?!” So, when the opportunity to connect with people who shared similarities presented itself, I found a way to break out of my shell and make new queer friends. 

Jacen Scaggs with Sparty

In the fall 2022 semester, PRISM was looking to fill its executive board. They needed a vice president, another Residence Halls Association representative, a secretary, a treasurer and a social media coordinator. I decided to run for the second RHA rep position. What was the worst they could do? Say no?

I got elected! During my first year on PRISM’s executive board, I noticed opportunities for improvement, so I decided to run for president to foster a more stable organization. Together with the PRISM officers, we established a monthly leadership meeting to create the plans for each weekly meeting for the upcoming month. This includes one informational meeting at the beginning of the month to preview the upcoming program, as well as two medium-sized events and one big end-of-month event. In the upcoming school year, I hope to connect with other queer caucuses and nonqueer caucuses to run joint events to foster a broader community on campus. 

PRISM, at its core, is a diversity, equity and inclusion effort across the entire campus of MSU. We strive to fight for queer rights and foster a community for LGBTQIA2S+ students and campus members, no matter your race, religion, disability or neighborhood. You don’t even have to be a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community to attend PRISM meetings and work with us.

As a straight-passing guy, my queerness really doesn’t impact my time at Michigan State, thankfully. However, as a Type 1 diabetic, there are some difficulties I face when it comes to class and getting around campus. When I have low or high blood sugar, it’s difficult for me to travel all the way across campus to get to my classes. Sometimes teachers aren’t the most understanding when it comes to this. Still, with a little bit of communication, I’ve found that it is possible to work around these misunderstandings. The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities also greatly helps with my campus experiences.

Finding my voice

These campus connections have helped me feel more comfortable speaking up and speaking out against injustices I see on campus and see the value of student activism. Notably, on April 4 when there was an anti-transgender tabling event in Brody Square, a group of queer students and allies protested the tabling event by sitting across from the table and drawing attention away from it. These acts of civil disobedience bring attention to and advance civil rights.

Jacen Scaggs with heart glasses

Outside of PRISM, I have made numerous connections, including serving as secretary to the Michigan College Democrats. Intending to get a government job, I want to use my experiences to help advocate for queer people and college-aged people on a national scale, as I know how difficult it is to be in both communities. However, currently, I am focusing on spreading queer joy around campus as much as I possibly can while also advocating for things that I am passionate about, like queer rights and disability rights.

One big piece of advice for people starting college is to do your classwork! It can be freeing to have a sense of independence when you first get to college but remember that it’s still school and there is still work you must do. Never put your student organizations or social life before schoolwork, but still have a social life.

April is Pride Month on campus, and MSU is committed to uplifting and supporting our LGBTQIA2S+ Spartans. Our community is coming together to support the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center’s Unconditional Love Fund, which provides flexible assistance to students in need.

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