Updated: July 2021
Starting a Campus Resource Center
An LGBTQ Center at your college or university can be amazing for the campus community. This was definitely the case at the University of Southern Maine. Having an LGBTQ 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 an LGBTQ Center is a long process. Below are a few introductory steps to start an LGBTQ Resource Center:
Conduct necessary research. Visit the website of the National Consortium of LGBT Directors in Higher Education. Their FAQ page has some great information on starting, staffing and funding LGBTQ programs at colleges and universities.
Assemble a committee or task force. This group should include both LGBT and allied faculty, staff and students. 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 to the group can be deflected or handled by administration. 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 LGBTQ Center is to prove that your campus needs one. Susan Rankin, Ph.D. is one of the leading scholars on LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ-Friendly Campus Pride Index. Another source of assessment material is the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.
Basically, what you need to know is if LGBTQ 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. Supportive faculty and other campus leaders will lend your group credibility and make it easier to handle obstacles. If you are a student, consider asking professors or teachers for support. Other possible allies could be leaders of other student advocacy groups, community leaders, and alumni of your school.
Read applicable resources. 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 is one place to start. 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 LGBTQ resource centers across the country. Books, videos, and online articles may all be great resources. Tailor your research to the needs of your group.
Ask questions. Find out if other schools in your area have an LGBTQ Center. If so, talk to them about their process, the challenges and the success.
The Campus Pride Map features LGBT student groups and resources across the country. Your group can use existing organizations as inspiration. Also, you can always reach out to groups close to you for help. We are all allies, and expanding LGBT student groups benefits everyone!
Starting an LGBT Student Group
If your group is new, or you are trying to revitalize a defunct organization, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. But it’s not as hard as you think. The key is to involve as many LGBTQ and ally students as possible. As a rule, strive to make the organization truly inclusive from the beginning. An organization will only be as successful as it’s founding members and purpose. Before you get started, here are a few questions you need to answer:
Will the organization be open only to students, or will community members, faculty and staff be allowed to join?
If only students can join, does that include graduate students? Maybe you want to create an organization for LGBTQ alumni. Check into what other organizations already exist (if any) to make sure you’re drawing the right audience.
How will the leadership be structured?
A hierarchy seems outdated for a progressive group, but is familiar and usually works. Other groups find it successful to have each officer be equal, naming them something like “co-chairs,” or committee heads. You will have to think about what will work best for your group.
What will be the focus of the group?
Will your group be a social club, a political action committee, or a support group – or all three? Will meetings be discussion-based or action-oriented? If discussion-based, what will meeting topics consist of? What types of programming and events will you offer? Educational, motivational, or political, you must decide what your group will do and it’s focus as an LGBTQ organization.
Where and when (how often) will this group meet?
You may want to consider that some of your members may not be comfortable meeting somewhere very public. However, remember to allow some visibility to your organization. Finding that balance can be difficult sometimes. Also, will you meet every week or once a month? This, of course, depends on how big your group is and what your focus will be.
What process do you need to go through to be official, officially recognized and, or funded?
This can usually be found on your student organization and, or club council’s website or in your student activities handbook. You will want to be as professional as possible because a LGBTQ group may cause controversy on your campus. If the school won’t officially recognize your organization because of its constituency, there are actions you can take. Remember that private schools and religious institutions don’t always have to follow the same guidelines as public universities. Make sure to research your campus, state and local policies.
Suggestions for Writing a Charter
Below are some helpful hints for your group and a sample charter:
- Keep it simple; avoid confusing, “legalistic” terms.
- Present a draft to the Office of Student Programs staff for suggestions.
- Include guidelines to govern organization and clearly state its purpose.
- Include specific details (i.e., duties of officers) in By-laws which are more easily amended than the charter.
- Amendments — changes directly to the body of the charter or constitution.
- By-laws are specific rules which are not included in the constitution. However, they are so important that they cannot be changed without using formal procedure. By-laws may detail members responsibilities, meeting times, location, attendance requirements, etc.
ARTICLE I – Name, Purpose, and Affiliation
Section 1: Name of organization
Section 2: Purpose of organization (objective/s)
Section 3: Organization affiliation (local, state, national, or international organizations)
ARTICLE II- Adhere to College Policies
Section 1: Statement that organization adheres to college rules, regulations, and policies (including Honor Code)
Section 2: Statement that organization will adhere to all local, state, and federal laws
ARTICLE III – Membership
Section 1: Membership requirements (listed as “a”, “b”, “c”, etc.)
Section 2: Membership privileges
Section 3: Organization does not discriminate based on – race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation
ARTICLE IV – Officers
Section 1: Titles of officers
Section 2: Qualifications of officers
Section 3: Duties of officers
ARTICLE V – Advisor
Section 1: How the advisor is chosen (if any)
ARTICLE VI – Election and Removal of Officers
Section 1: Time of election
Section 2: Election procedures
Section 3: Procedure for removal of officers
ARTICLE VII – Meetings
Section 1: Frequency of regular meetings
Section 2: Provision for special meetings
ARTICLE VIII – Quorum
Section 1: Definition of a quorum (i.e., 2/3 majority, 50% + 1, etc.)
Section 2: When a quorum is necessary
ARTICLE IX- Amendments and By-Laws
Section 1: Provision for amendments
Section 2: Provision for By-laws
ARTICLE X – Committees
Section 1: Outline any standing committees
Source: Campus Pride, 2008. Updated 2014.