The Gay Straight Alliance is moving forward after a spring semester that involved an officer allegedly trying to steal $2,000 from the organization, and a ruling by the Student Body Supreme Court of Florida Gulf Coast University to put the organization on probation.
In early February, GSA attended the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally Collegiate Conference (MBLGTACC) in Kansas City with 23 members.
“While preparing for MBLGTACC we started to have some issues as far as paying for hotel rooms and registration for the conference,” said Megan Deremiah, the current copresident of GSA. “We had the finances, we were just hitting some road blocks as far as accessing it.”
According to Deremiah, copresident Santiago Luaces, and former co-president Jackie Reale, one member of GSA offered to
use his own money to pay for the hotel and registration.
“Our treasurer, Chazmen McCarter, offered to pay for our hotel and registration, which summed up to amounts over $2,000,” Reale said.
“Chaz claimed he was getting the rest of the money through some sponsors or some other means, and he’d take care of it,” Luaces said.
With the hotel and registration paid for, GSA members went to the conference.
Later in March, Reale received a phone call from the Office of Student Involvement. The checks that were written to pay for the hotel had bounced.
“Turned out he never had the money he was supposedly paid with,” Luaces said. “The checks bounced, and, meanwhile, he was trying to get that money that never existed refunded through the school in his name.”
McCarter had also forged the signatures of the then-co presidents Reale and Robbie Lloyd on OSI paperwork.
“GSA was told to stop functioning as an RSO until this got sorted out,” Deremiah said. “Because of the forged signatures of our presidents at the time, it looked as if our whole officer team had been apart of this scheme.”
The organization’s accounts were frozen, the final meetings of the school year were cancelled, and Reale and Lloyd had to attend hearings held by the Student Body Student Court.
“After an emotional and difficult trial, we received notice that we were still going to be placed on probation,” Reale said. “This meant no activities on or off campus, no meeting and no traveling.”
After an appeal, the Court ruled that GSA could begin to have meetings again. But the organization will not be allowed to travel out of state for the next year, it does not have a travel budget, and holding events will require more work with OSI for approval.
Despite the new challenges for the upcoming year, Luaces and Deremiah are confident that GSA will have an excellent year.
“All of our newly elected officers are so driven and so committed to making GSA thrive,” Deremiah said. “Even with the extra challenges we’ll face, this will be our best year yet.”
Immediately after the officers learned of the bounced checks, McCarter, who did not respond to emails from Eagles News, was removed from his position and was eventually replaced with member Anthony Morales.
“He’s a great kid who joined GSA this past year, and Meg and I are confident he will do a great job,” Luaces said. “We are planning a lot more hands on with our fellow officers this year. We want to work more closely than ever with our team nd try to foster a greater sense of unity and camaraderie among the officers.”
Excluding the sororities and fraternities, GSA is the largest registered student organization at FGCU with more than 100 members. Although GSA will not be able to attend MBLGTACC this year, the group will be able to attend the Florida Collegiate Pride Conference at the University of South Florida, provided it can raise the money.
GSA will be able to hold its traditional events, such as Drag Bingo in October, a night hosted by drag queens; Pride Week in November, which uses activities and entertainment to raise awareness of LGBT issues; and Pride Prom at the end of the school year.
Luaces encourages all students to attend GSA events.
“Everyone and anyone is welcome to any of our events. You dont have to identify as gay, bisexual, transgender or any of the letters in our alphabet soup to be a part of our organization and events,” Luaces said.
“GSA is home away from home for many people,” Deremiah said. “We are all-inclusive and a really fun group to be around. There is a spot for anyone from any walk of life.”
To get involved with GSA, “like” the FGCU Gay Straight Alliance page on Facebook, and send any questions to the group through Faceboo or [email protected] The group also has accounts on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.