For Melissa Kravetz, academic life inspires activism

In recognition of Gay History Month, on a brilliant October afternoon, Melissa Kravetz '99 is standing on Middle Path organizing fellow students to demonstrate how the activities of homosexual students differ from those of their heterosexual counterparts. Her platform shoes lend three or four inches to her height, and her presence is almost imposing--until she giggles over the posters she's making. They signal to passersby that there are homosexuals reading, playing chess, and having a picnic.

Kravetz is organizing the event as copresident of Allied Sexual Orientations (ALSO), just one of the many groups at Kenyon she's involved with, but by far her greatest passion. She wants the event to make people realize there is no such thing as a homosexual or gay or lesbian "lifestyle."

A native of the greater Los Angeles, California, area, Kravetz is creating a major for herself combining anthropology, biology, and psychology. During her time at Kenyon, she's involved herself in a long string of social and political causes. She considers herself the kind of person who wants to make an impact.

"Why leave something alone if it's not as good as it can be?" she asks. "I think I can make a difference at the College."

Kravetz is trying to raise awareness about bisexual, gay, and lesbian issues. She wants to dispel stereotypes and make sure that students who aren't heterosexual are comfortable at Kenyon.

Kravetz praises the administration for its support of her crusade. "I love the fact that I can make an appointment with the president or the dean of students to talk about my concerns," she says. "You're just not going to get that at a larger college or university."

Had she chosen to go to a larger institution, Kravetz isn't sure she would be the person she is today. "I think if I had gone to a larger place, I'd be a quiet, poorly performing student," she says.

She describes herself as having been an average student at Los Angeles's Harvard-Westlake School, active in community service but hardly an activist. Since coming to the College, Kravetz says that stimulating courses have sparked her desire to learn--and to be an advocate of change. "I have no idea where my sense of activism comes from," she says. "But when I see a need, I feel like I have to step in."

Kravetz put her Kenyon education to work last summer as an animal programs research assistant at Walt Disney World in Florida. Her work involved developing educational programs for Disney's Animal Kingdom, a new park scheduled to open in March that focuses on conservation and environmental issues. While she's limited in what she can discuss about her work because of privacy issues, she says it was an amazing experience.

"I'm happy to see Disney taking steps in the area of environmental issues because it's the big companies, like Disney, that can make a difference," she says. "And Disney is doing it right."

In addition to her work with ALSO, Kravetz is a member of the Animal Liberation Coalition, a volunteer at the Kenyon Center for Environmental Study, treasurer of the Multicultural Council, and a tour guide for the Office of Admissions. In all, she's a member of more than twelve academic, athletic, and service organizations.

As a member of the Multicultural Admission Committee, Kravetz is pushing to have the term "under-represented" students replace the term "minority students." She says the term minority traditionally refers to ethnic background, and she wants people to think beyond that. "When people talk about multiculturalism, sexual orientation should be included in that," she says. "Plus, just because someone is in a minority at Kenyon doesn't mean he or she is in a minority in other parts of the world. What we're really talking about here is the issue of students who are not well represented at the College."

Kravetz describes Kenyon as a "campus in progress." Her work in the area of sexual orientation comes from a sense that things at the College can be better, not that they are bad. "We don't have hate crimes here," she says. "And I'm not afraid to walk down Middle Path. I just think we can be doing more to support our bisexual, gay, and lesbian students."

After college, Kravetz wants to attend graduate school with hopes of working in the area of animal rights or environmental issues. For now, she says, "Kenyon is a great place to be. I'm glad I'm here."


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