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Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

The Observer

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

The Observer

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Major work on LGBT center completed

With the surreptitious replacement and repositioning of a sign, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center in the west wing of the Thwing Center opened its doors on Monday.

The opening, originally projected for late March when renovations began in early February, was pushed back to April, then to “Spring 2010,” an estimate that was still displayed on the sign outside the entrance late into the summer. Renovations of the space are not yet finished, with the Hart Crane Reading Room (formerly the Hitchcock Lounge) in particular still expecting significant additions. But with students returning to campus, the space, for the first time since January, was once again available to students.

The renovations have modernized and brightened a formerly secluded and out-of-fashion area of the Thwing Center. Bamboo flooring, soft lighting, and pale yellow walls create a pleasing aesthetic more reminiscent of The Village than a standard university common area. Signs of the renovation are still showing – the LGBT library, a key piece of the project, remains visibly non-existent due to hang-ups over security concerns for the library material, and the lamps still have a manufacturer’s advertising tag attached to the cords – but the major work is finished.

“I think we have one of the most beautiful LGBT centers in the United States,” said interim center coordinator Liz Roccoforte. “The response is overwhelmingly positive to the renovation and recreation of the physical space.”

Roccoforte will oversee the center for the 2010-2011 school year. With the help of two student assistants, Roccoforte hopes to keep the center staffed for a significant portion of Thwing’s operating hours, leaving the study spaces, kitchenette, and bathrooms available to all students late into the night.

The LGBT Center was designed for all individuals in the Case community – students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Roccoforte plans to have events catering to the needs of all four groups, with sessions such as “Understanding Partner Benefits at CWRU” and a showing of the documentary Out in Silence, a collaboration with Equality of Ohio, already scheduled for the fall.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, the Cleveland Room will host three discussion groups (women’s, GenderQueer, and coming out) on a rotating schedule. The groups are not counseling sessions, instead serving as a chance for individuals to come together in a safe space and talk. The coming out group, for example, is designed to unite individuals with similar experiences. “Whatever stage in coming out a person is in, whether completely out, not at all out, or somewhere in between, it lets them talk to other people who are in the same process,” said Roccoforte. The Cleveland Room will continue to function as reservable space for other student groups during the remaining days of the week.

The center will also work with existing student groups on campus, such as Spectrum, throughout the year. The center will host Spectrum’s bi-weekly meetings on Fridays. Shane Jeffers, co-president of the group, is excited about moving some of the organization’s activities into the new center. “I’m thinking it’s going to be really useful because it’s just starting. The students will be able to mold the center into whatever we want it to be for ourselves,” he said.

A fine example of the desired union between the activities of the center and student groups is the center’s planned “Art of Drag” interactive workshop, scheduled to occur prior to Spectrum’s annual Drag Ball this fall. The workshop, led by drag king JAC Stringer, is designed to both educate interested attendees in the ins-and-outs of drag while also providing an opportunity to aspiring Drag Ball contestants to perform their acts and receive feedback from an expert.

Despite the excitement of most community members, the center has not been universally praised. When the official announcement was made in March, some students expressed dissatisfaction with a facility dedicated to LGBT issues. Roccoforte stresses that the center is open to all students. “Students have not lost a space, but the space has a designated purpose now in addition to the purpose it already had,” she explained.

The design of the center backs up her words – it is possible to enter the spacious Hart Crane Reading Room, the primary study area, without passing by the LGBT Center sign. The focus of the space, however, is unambiguously LGBT issues. Roccoforte recounted a comment from student who said that, prior to the existence of the center, every space on campus was a straight space. “If you’re gay, it’s important to have a space where you feel safe and comfortable and affirmed in your identity,” stated Roccoforte.

The long-awaited dedication ceremony will be held on the Friday of Alumni Weekend, Oct. 1.


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