Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Student Services Center Tuesday to celebrate the long awaited opening of the LGBT resource center. All who attended the event teemed with excitement before the ribbon was cut, officially opening the center early that morning.
The idea for the center has been floating around for nearly a year, and with a lot of hard work, students, as well as staff, were able to make it happen.
“There’s been a long series of discussions about the center,” Adrienne Andrews, assistant to the president of diversity, said, mentioning that the leading push came from student interest.
Before the center opened, the LGBT Lounge was the only source of help for their community, but there was no sole person or place for members of the community to go.
“It became apparent that we had growing participation and engagement, there were more questions being asked, faculty and staff were interested in safety zone training and so this became a natural outgrowth,” Andrews said. The project took longer than she had intended because of all of the different channels the center had to go through, but Andrews said it was necessary to be successful because the center would be institutionalized, so it could be a permanent center at WSU.
The resource center has several goals put in place. Jayson Stokes, LGBT resource center coordinator, said that they have looked at what they want a resource center to offer and meet the needs of students.
“We want to offer opportunities to teach people about what the LGBT community is,” Stokes said. The center also has goals to not only work with other offices and departments on campus but, most importantly, with the community.
“Weber State is a wonderful place to help build LGBT related resources and community, but not just here on campus. It’s a really exciting opportunity for us,” Stokes said.
The center is geared toward making sure that WSU is welcoming for all students and their families. Stokes mentioned that the LGBT community includes those members’ families and friends as well. “With the LGBT community, everyone knows somebody that is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. What we hope to do is to be able to engage people, regardless of whether they identify as LGBT or not,” he said.
Before the ribbon was cut, officially opening the center, WSU President Chuck Wight made a short speech where he mentioned the steps WSU is making with this endeavor.
“This really represents a big step toward the diversity we’re trying to build at Weber State University,” he said. Wight also went on to thank all of those who worked hard to put the center together.
“Weber State, as you know, has an open enrollment admissions policy and behind that open enrollment policy is a philosophy that everyone deserves the opportunity to earn a college education and a college degree. For members of our LGBT community, they have some special challenges that normally accompany earning a degree are sometimes compounded by challenges of dealing with attitudes, intolerance, and sometimes even hate,” Wight said.
Wight believes this space creates a safe space for students and their families and friends, supporting their opportunity to share their experiences and learn how to navigate some of those challenges. In honor of the center opening, special guest and former Wildcat Kate Kendell spoke after the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Kendell is the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights based in San Francisco. She spoke about how the opening of this center is a step in a great direction.
“I thought the highlight of my 2015 was going to be winning marriage equality nationwide in June of this year,” Kendell said. “But actually that’s been surpassed by being here.” Kendell was moved and said that this is a very good sign of where this school is going and where the nation is going.
The center will have many events happening throughout the next couple of months that include safe zone training, a film series and the continuation of the LGBT book club.
Karlee Berezay, LGBT advocate and student leadership member, said that the book club reads books that relate to the LGBT community and sorts through books that could be helpful to the LGBT community members.
“We want all students to come in here. It’s such a relaxed space, and it’s good to be able to build a community,” Berezay said. “Just because something has a rainbow on it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a part of it. That’s the point of a rainbow, that it’s a spectrum of everyone.”