In 1987, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) raised eyebrows after recognizing the Lesbian/Gay Student Union (LGSU) as an official campus organization, to which a commuter representative of USG responded: “By recognizing the LGSU, [USG] is basically sanctioning a group that is not morally justifiable.”
Since then, the LGBT community on campus has seen it all; from bigotry to open support, the University finally dedicated its LGBT Center in 2010. The Center stands not only as an educational resource and safe space but as a bastion of progress and the school’s dedication to inclusion.
The LGBT Center, located in the Tinkham Veale University Center (TVUC), provides several services for the campus community. On its website, it is described as providing “an inviting home,” where its members and other students can have open dialogues through educational programs and facilitated conversation groups, which are run by the Center’s staff.
“Many student organizations, including QGrad, Spectrum and Theta Pi Sigma, also collaborate with the LGBT Center to put on events and programming or simply to use the Center for their meetings,” said the LGBT Center Director Liz Roccoforte and Assistant Director AmariYah Israel.
With a television, desk space, couch and other amenities, the Center is also a relaxing place where students can get together and study or have casual conversations. Additionally, the Center offers a library with resources such as books, periodicals and brochures that are focused on LGBT topics. Perhaps above all else, though, they want to ensure that the Center acts as “a supportive, fun and engaging space where they can bring their full self and be accepted and valued.”
While the Center’s objectives have stayed largely the same—to provide support for the LGBTQIA+ community—Roccoforte and Israel announced the Center’s first-ever strategic plan last year and have been working on it since.
“The plan involves stakeholders from across campus, including alumni and community members working together to shape the future of the LGBT Center,” they said, “building on its successes and identifying places to improve our service to the campus community.”
When asked as to how the campus community can further increase the inclusivity of the Center, Israel and Roccoforte touched on the need for policies and procedures that will advocate transgender students.
“We are working to ensure surveys or forms that students fill out have options for gender beyond [male or female], and these options should be consistent across forms and surveys,” they explained.
Other suggestions the Center received to broaden inclusivity efforts include making sure that there are gender-inclusive bathrooms throughout most buildings on campus and ensuring that professors refer to students by their correct pronouns, both of which would honor the University’s commitment to supporting non-binary students.
This is not to undermine the efforts that CWRU has already instated; Roccoforte and Israel cited various faculty and staff members’ support of students in the community, including President Barbara Snyder’s attendance to LGBTQIA+ events such as the Lavender Graduation. The Center’s staff also gave the student community praise for perpetuating inclusivity.
“The students at CWRU are passionate, outspoken and vibrant,” they said. “They are the heart and soul of the LGBT Center and we want them to keep doing everything that they’ve done—from challenging our assumptions, to pushing forward initiatives, to filling the space with dynamic conversation—we are grateful.”
The Center will be holding several events in the near future. Its first ever Professionals with Pride: Northeast Ohio LGBTQIA+ Collegiate Career Fair will take place on Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open to everyone. The LGBT Center is also working on a collaborative program called Found Families.
“Found Families exists to bring together people in the LGBTQ+ community of many ages, religions, socioeconomic statuses, races, everything you can think of,” said Roccoforte and Israel. “We want people to be able to be their whole selves while learning with and from each other, offering support through everyday life.”
The next LGBT Center Found Families meeting will be on Sunday, Sept. 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. in its TVUC office.