Having a LGBT Center at your college or university can be one of the best things that can happen for the community at your school. This was definitely the case at the University of Southern Maine. Having a LGBT and Ally Resources Program increased the visibility of the queer community on campus, provided more money for programming, increased participation in our Safe Zone Project, and helped to connect queer students and staff with one another.
For many campuses, getting a LGBT Center is a long process. Below are a few introductory steps to “start a LGBT Resource Center, as follows:
Conduct necessary research. Visit the website of the National Consortium of LGBT Directors in Higher Education atwww.glbtcampus.org. Their FAQ page has some great information on starting, staffing and funding LGBT programs at colleges and universities.
Assemble a committee or task force. This group should include faculty, staff and students, both LGBT and Allied. It is preferable that the committee or task force be sanctioned or initiated by the upper administration at your school. That way, the committee will have the authority to make recommendations. Also, if the university President or Provost supports the process, any challenges that come from conservative elements in the campus or local community can be deflected or handled by them and not the committee. It should be up to the committee or task force to determine the best way of proceeding.
Assess the needs of your campus. The best way to get a LGBT Center is to prove that your campus needs one. Susan Rankin, Ph.D. is one of the leading scholars on LGBT campus assessments. Dr. Rankin is also a featured resource in the Campus Pride Speaker Bureau. You can also get a formal start by participating in the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index atwww.campuscliimateindex.org. Another source of assessment material is the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.
Basically, what you need to know is if LGBT students feel safe/unsafe, visible/invisible, connected/isolated on campus. Are they comfortable being out? Have they been the victims of discrimination, harassment or hate crimes? Are appropriate resources available and accessible to them?
Identify allies on your campus. At the University of Southern Maine, when we brought our request for a LGBT and Ally Resources Program and paid Coordinator to President Richard Pattenaude, we brought our allies with us. Present at the meeting were faculty members, department directors, representatives from Multicultural Student Affairs, the Coordinator of Women’s Resources, a University Police Officer, representatives from Equal Opportunity, and students who spoke about their experiences on campus.
Read applicable resources. There are more and more books being published on this topic every year. Definitely read the book “Our Place on Campus: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Services and Programs in Higher Education” part of The Greenwood Educators’ Reference Collection by Sue Rankin, Ronni Sanlo, and Robert Schoenberg. Also, check out the Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students by Shane L. Windmeyer. It lists the “100 Best LGBT Campuses” and features leading campuses with LGBT resource centers across the country.
Ask questions. Find out if other schools in your area have a LGBT Center. If so, talk to them about their process, the challenges and the success.
These are just some introductory suggestions for a place to start… Remember it is possible and maintain the momentum year to year. Please visit the LGBTQ Architect to find proposals for starting LGBT Centers: http://architect.lgbtcampus.org/.
Source: Campus Pride, 2008.