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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Fellow student donates on Giving Day in honor of late friend

Fellow student donates on Giving Day in honor of late friend

Giving Day at SMU is an annual opportunity for donors to fund organizations and ideas on campus. Donors can choose from providing air fare to students studying abroad, educating future business leaders, replacing furniture in buildings on campus.. the list goes on and on.

Giving Day was on March 7 this year. One Mustang took advantage of this day to give back to a cause that is dear to his heart. Senior Michael Robertson will donate $5,000 annually for five years as a matching gift to SMU’s Women and LGBT Center, student organizations affiliated with the center and the center’s alumni outreach to honor the life of SMU student and late friend of Robertson, Jaime Shim, who died last year by suicide.

| RELATED: SMU community remembers Jaime Shim

Robertson recalled first meeting Shim a couple years ago.

“Jaime and I first met in fall 2014 at the Umphrey Lee cafeteria actually,” Robertson said. “And then we had classes together because we were both political science majors.”

Robertson had not seen Shim for a while before his death.

“He had cut off contact with his friends and his professors, so I hadn’t actually seen him for over a month before he committed suicide,” Robertson said.

Shim suffered from depression, which made academics and life hard for him, according to Robertson.

“Jaime was a very driven and successful student so it was extremely difficult for him and his image of himself when he was having trouble in school because of the depression,” Robertson said.

Shim was very open about being a transgendered male, something that he never hid, according to Robertson.

“Jaime, I thought showed a lot of courage for expressing his gender identity and sexual orientation,” Robertson said. “He was never shy; he was never closeted in any way.”

However, Shim faced adverse reactions due to his gender identity, according to Robertson.

“It was very difficult, because even here at SMU he faced discrimination from fellow students, people who were uncomfortable with who he was,” Robertson said.

Robertson created the memorial grant in honor of Shim to bring awareness of the LGBT community to SMU and also to make a statement about diversity on campus.

“The pressure to be the same or to fit societal norms is very strong, but even though there is this natural tension and tendency to conform, there is space here at SMU for people to be different,” Robertson said. “Jaime’s life was part of that broader story of all of us trying to find space to be ourselves.”

Robertson said he hopes to help the Women and LGBT Center in any way he can with his donation. Every dollar that a donor gives on Giving Day will be matched by Robertson’s dollar; the university will also give money to match Robertson’s.

“For example, if they want to hire a guest speaker, or if they want to do an event and it costs money for catering or things like that,” Robertson said.

Program Advisor of the Women and LGBT Center Val Erwin is very grateful for Robertson’s donation. She believes the purpose behind this donation sends a message to the SMU community.

“We were incredibly grateful for such a generous gift to the Women & LGBT Center,” Erwin said in an email interview. “The fact that it was a gift from a student in memory of a student made the gift even more touching and powerful. It is the type of gift that can add to the work we do as a center, especially since the goal is to help encourage other donations to the center.”

Erwin believes the gift will help spread the ultimate purpose of the Center.

“This gift allows for the Women & LGBT Center to expand our education about the LGBT community on campus,” Erwin said.

Erwin said Center staff already has plans for how they will allocate the Robertson’s donation.

“We are specifically planning on using it for the LGBT Equality Forum, to bring the AIDS Memorial Quilt to campus, and to create an LGBT student leadership award,” Erwin said.

Ultimately, Robertson’s goal in creating this fund is to honor Shim’s courage and let the SMU community know that diversity is welcomed.

“I wanted to do something to acknowledge the sacrifices Jamie made and to also sort of think about in this broader context of how this community and how Americans will generally think about issues about gender identity and sexual orientation,” Robertson said. “I wanted the SMU community to say that we are open to this and we are supportive.”

Robertson said he hopes his grant will eventually change on-campus culture.

“This will help to give the Women & LGBT Center a larger voice on campus, which we hope in turn will help change the culture on campus, make it more inclusive,” Robertson said.

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