The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and questioning community now has a resource center with a director after more than eight months of negotiations, University officials said Tuesday.
Graduate student Aaron Fox – who was initially hired by the University to study other LGBTQ resource centers – will lead the center and assist students once school begins. He will conduct LGBTQ-oriented programming, support and outreach throughout the year, said Tim Miller, director of the Student Activities Center.
“It will be a resource for faculty, staff and students, and for the entire GW community,” Miller said.
Over a three-month period, Fox conducted several focus groups and surveys, and studied LGBTQ resource centers at American and the University of California Los Angeles.
“There is a difference between being gay-friendly and being gay-positive,” Fox said. He said the center will help strengthen the LGBTQ presence on campus through initiatives and events that support the LGBTQ community and its allies.
One such initiative is a “Gay Day in D.C.” where freshman LGBTQ members and LGBTQ supporters tour the city and visit the Gay and Lesbian National Task Force, he said.
“A lot of what I am going to be doing is finding out what students want,” Fox said. “I want students to have the ownership in this.”
The LGBTQ resource center is currently located in room 425 of the Marvin Center, within the Student and Academic Support Services office. Fox said he intends to have a physical space for the center by the second week of October.
The effort to bring the LGBTQ resource center began in December when several students from Allied in Pride – the LGBTQ group on campus – teamed up to pressure the University to create a place for their community.
“The personal journey that students go on when they go to college is different for LGBT students than it is for other students,” said College Democrats President Cory Struble, who helped lead the initiative. “There is a large LGBT population at the University and it was an outrage that the school did not provide the necessary resources, as an official arm of the University, for the huge population of LGBTQ students. In doing so, they could assist LGBTQ students in housing problems, financial problems and personal problems.”
Student Association President Vishal Aswani was pleased that this group of students was able to convince the University to meet their needs. He sponsored legislation for an LGBTQ resource center when he was an SA senator last year.
“Everybody has got to be respectful of the other community,” Aswani said. “The key part really was Allied in Pride lobbying to the University and working with the SAC office. All I did was reaffirm the desire from the SA to have a resource center.”
He added that the center shows a remarkable effort on the part of students.
“The fact that it only took 8 months to create, from the first request to its implementation, shows how strong a group of students can be when they unite together and work with the University,” Aswani said, “and shows how willing this University is to change for the better.”