CWRU raises awareness of LGBT issues: Snyder officially opens LGBT center

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CWRU raises awareness of LGBT issues: Snyder officially opens LGBT center

courtesy Daniel Milner

courtesy Daniel Milner

courtesy Daniel Milner

President Snyder officially dedicated the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Center last friday during Homecoming weekend. The ceremony was especially poignant for Cleveland PFLAG co-founder Jane Daroff, whose son was a gay student at CWRU years ago. Daroff praised Snyder's attendance at the ceremony, "Our president and deputy provost Lynn Singer have been constantly supportive,” she said.

Gillian Seaman, News Editor

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“We’re not going to rest on our laurels, but we are going to celebrate tonight,” said president Barbara Snyder, addressing the students, alumni, faculty and Cleveland community members in a packed Thwing atrium during last Friday’s official opening of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender center.

The LGBT center has been open to the public since the first day of classes and Liz Roccoforte, the center coordinator, stated that center traffic had been consistent over the past weeks. However, Roccoforte stated that Snyder’s official opening was still important for the center because it affirmed CWRU’s dedication to the creation of a diverse and welcoming environment.

“It’s really important that [she did] the opening and the welcome. And her involvement throughout the center creation and so forth has really shown that it’s not just words when she talks about being an inclusive environment and educational environment. Sexual orientation and gender expression are part of our non-discrimination policy. We really mean that and we’re backing it up with resources and a place for people to come. It’s a realization of those policies for her to be here.”

Jane Daroff, the co-founder of the Cleveland chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) was in attendance and praised Snyder for her participation in the center’s creation. “The change in administration was wonderful and very supportive. Our president and deputy provost Lynn Singer have been constantly supportive,” she said.

The warm and inviting LGBT center is situated in Thwing West and has replaced what was once a dark, uninviting, and underutilized area. Snyder praised university architect and planner associate vice president Margaret Carney for realizing the potential of the space.

“The people who come in here really like it. Students say ‘I have been here for four years and I’ve never studied here before because it was so dark and now it’s so comfortable I want to stay here,’” said Roccoforte.

While the focus of the event was celebration, the mood was somewhat darkened by the acknowledgment of several recent highly publicized suicides among young people within the LGBT community, most of which were attributed to homophobic bullying .

Snyder mentioned the death or Rutgers student Tyler Clementi in her speech, saying that she hoped the CWRU campus never experienced a similar tragedy. “The importance of our center here can literally not be overstated,” she said.

Roccoforte also articulated the importance of the LGBT center in light of recent events. “It’s interesting timing because I’ve been definitely aware of what’s been happening. It’s tragic and sad. I think the center opening at the same time in the greater context of what’s happening with the LGBT people and their rights is significant. I hope the center can be a place where people can come and feel supported and feel like they have allies, both straight and LGBT. Hopefully, it can be, in some way or another, preventative. Obviously, it’s not the end all be all. But it’s vital.”

Other employees of the center also agreed that the center could provide a valuable space for both dialogue and support. Student assistant Fatima Espiritu expressed her hope that the center would provide students within and beyond the CWRU community with a forum to speak about a number of issues and find support.

“They have a tangible space to come to,” she said.

Many LGBT alumni of CWRU in attendance at the event expressed approval of the center and it’s goals. Steve Stumphauzer, a member of the CWRU class of 2010, was pleased with the center’s opening, but he wished that a similar level of support had existed during his undergraduate experience.

“It’s a good because it gives LBGT people a place to have somewhere to go that is a resource. Because when I came to CWRU as a freshman, Spectrum was, for lack of a better term, a gossip-dating service. But it’s really great to see how it has changed over the years into something that’s trying to increase awareness for the community and issues of equality. This is just another step for that.”