The LGBT Resource Center is a new, bright, open space tucked away in the Student Services building. It’s a small place with a big history at Weber State.
“Celebrating the fullness of who you are, where you are,” is the proclaimed vision statement on the center’s website.
The LGBT Resource Center is the fruition of a long history of LGBT representation at Weber State.
“Weber State was one of the first institutions in the state to put in their nondiscrimination policy ‘sexual orientation,’” Jayson Stokes, coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, said. “But institutional policy alone does not address campus climate.”
Over the last decade, faculty and students have recognized a need for the greater recognition of LGBT issues. The first step the university took was creating a “Safe Zone” program to educate faculty and students on what it means to be LGBT.
“From there, we recognized that, though that program was important and effective in many ways, and beneficial and valuable, there were still needs it was not able to meet,” Stokes said, who was involved in the process.
Next, the university created an LGBT resources program located in the Center for Diversity and Unity.
WSU student and LGBT advocate Karlee Berezay was, and still is, deeply involved in LGBT issues on campus. She runs a number of programs and events to spotlight the needs of LGBT individuals. A few include a book club that discusses LGBT issues through literature and a film series coordinated with the campus Gay-Straight Alliance.
At this point, Berezay took part in a letter-writing campaign to petition the university to take the next step and create a LGBT center. In her writing, she referenced her work at the University of Utah in their LGBT Resource Center.
“I expressed how helpful it was in my coming-out process to have a place that could give me information to give to my parents, or to my brothers, or to my friends,” Berezay said.
Stokes realized that though the LGBT resources program was effective, there were still needs that were not being met.
“We realized that we needed something more than an LGBT resources program,” Stokes said. “We needed a resource center. Something that could consolidate all the resources that were available and fill in the gaps that weren’t being met.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“What we are doing is offering programming to address the common obstacles that LGBT individuals face in terms of coming to the university, engaging in programming and ultimately being successful,” Stokes said. “We’re doing that through educational programming and providing resources.”
One of those resources is a new speaker series, the “Marquardt Peace and Possibility Series,” funded by the recent donation of Jane and Tami Marquardt.
A resource library, social and leadership opportunities are also offered at the center, and Stokes said scholarships may be available in the future.
“We’re looking at making sure that campus is fully inclusive and welcoming for LGBT students,” Stokes said.
Berezay is frequently involved in activities at the new center. She was grateful for the center’s opening.
“It gave my job placement a home, a place to be, and a place for people to come and utilize the resources that I provide and that we all provide in the center,” Berezay said. “Even though these events are my responsibility and they fall under my name, it really takes all of us in a collective to make all of these things work.”
Stokes said there are still misconceptions surrounding the needs of LGBT students on campus.
“Oftentimes just having an LGBT identity leaves people susceptible to facing isolation, marginalization and lack of acceptance,” Stokes said. “We can focus on specifically LGBT community and looking at our Weber State campus climate and our culture, to make sure those students have a voice and that their LGBT identity is not just welcomed, but valued.”
The LGBT Resource Center also partners with existing departments, like the Counseling Center, to fulfill specific needs for students.
“Our ultimate goal is to meet specific needs more effectively,” Stokes said.
The LGBT Resource Center is in Suite 154 in the Student Services building. All visitors are welcome. Check out their website at www.weber.edu/lgbtresourcecenter.