Gessell Fellowship Presentation: “Fighting for Safe Spaces: Clashes, Controversy, and the Franklin County High School Gay-Straight Alliance", by Kate Davenport, C'18

Kate Davenport

In December 2015, students of Franklin County High School in Winchester, TN, founded a local chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), igniting a debate about the organization’s efficacy that ultimately reached a national stage. While some community members actively supported the GSA’s formation as a safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allied students, others compared it to the Islamic State and appealed to nationally-recognized hate groups to assist in their anti-GSA campaign. Kate Davenport, the 2017-18 Gessell Fellow, researched the conversations and issues that arose during the formation of the GSA in 2015. She will present her research that delves into the club’s history, explores the realities of the Franklin County GSA today, and builds on social theory that supports the need for such organizations.

The Gessell Fellowship in Social Ethics, established by John M. “Jack” Gessell in 2006, provides funding for Sewanee students to do an independent research project in social theory or social ethics.  The project may be an academic research paper or field experience. Awards alternate yearly between students from the College and the School of Theology. For more information, please contact Career & Leadership Development at 931-598-1121 or



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