Administration says center for LGBT students still coming

After several discussions on LGBT matters at Marquette and requests from academics and students last year, Marquette administrators promised a Gender Resource Center would be established on campus, with Provost John Pauly saying the center “should open” in fall 2011 during the last Fr. Wild Forum. When the year began, though, no news of the center opening, or even its planning, emerged.

Despite the lack of communication, the university said they are still on track with plans to establish the center.

“The center should be fully functioning by the beginning of (next) fall semester,” said William Welburn, associate provost for diversity and inclusion. “It is of the utmost concern that this is done well.”

The idea for the proposed Gender Resource Center was sparked by recommendations made by Ronni Sanlo, a former professor at UCLA who was commissioned by the university to create a report on the climate of LGBT issues at Marquette. Sanlo suggested the university work “collaboratively and creatively” to solve the issues, and specifically said the creation of a specialized facility would benefit in this process.

The Gender Resource Center offers LGBT students and allies a common space where they can seek counseling and find shared resources. It is also designed to address issues of sexual violence on campus.

Welburn said administration has made progress this semester towards opening the center. Space on the fourth floor of the Alumni Memorial Union has been established, and a planning group comprised of faculty has been established to write a charter for the center and a job description for a director, all in hopes to begin a search for the position next semester.

Part of the center’s goal, according to Welburn, is to create programming and outreach for campus LGBT community members and establish professionals in residence.

“This center will build the bridge between academic and student communities,” Welburn said.

Welburn said Marquette’s Gender Resource Center is modeled after the program at another Catholic school: Georgetown University, the first Jesuit institution to establish an LGBT center.

“The center at Georgetown is a good example of what we see ourselves doing,” Welburn said.

Matthew Leblanc, program coordinator for Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center, said a gender resource facility at Marquette could serve a very special purpose.

“Anytime you set up a center like this, you bring the conversation to the forefront … it brings legitimacy to the conversation,” Leblanc said. “It’s saying ‘we’re not going to shy from this.'”

The Georgetown LGBTQ center offers a combination of education, advocacy and social programming that gives support for students and faculty, Leblanc said.

Leblanc said that he has seen people from Marquette University visit the center and Marquette’s plans are a move in the right direction.

“It’s great to look at LGBT work across schools, especially in the Midwest,” Leblanc said. “There’s always going to be ups and downs, Marquette is on the right side of justice and equality.”

Students like Nick Herff, senior in the College of Communication, said communicating issues concerning gender is key.

“I think gender equality and equality between people of all sexual orientations is important,” Herff said. “Having the center would raise awareness and promote open communication on the issue.”