After several years of lobbying by various student groups and cooperation between several campus offices, the Tech LGBTQIA Resource Center is built and set to open later in the spring. The resource center will provide institutional support, event coordination and information to students identifying as gay, lesbian, transexual or as part of another sexual minority.
The office for the resource center has already been built in the Smithgall Student Services Building, and its services will be available for students after a director has been named and has arrived at Tech.
“The ideal start date for the new inaugural LGBT director would be March 1st, but I would want the candidate to be able to give their previous institution ample warning of their departure as well as being able to find a place to stay in Atlanta,” said Stephanie Ray, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Diversity Programs.
Support for an institutional resource specifically for LGBT students has been building in recent years. During their successful election for Undergraduate Student Body President and Executive Vice President last spring, Nick Picon and Lucy Tucker emphasized the need for the resource, making it one of the key planks to their platform.
“I honestly didn’t think I would see it in my time as a student, I thought at the very least we’d get the ball rolling towards something in five or ten years,” said Kate Harlan, President of Pride Alliance. “[We] owe a lot to Nick Picon and his team and making this a concern of theirs, which really helped it get through to the administration.”
Before the resource center was announced, Tech was one of two peer-group institutions to not have a dedicated resource for LGBT students. Although students have been able to receive support from student resources such as Pride Alliance and campus resources such as the Women’s Resource Center and the office of the Dean of Students, many felt that the lack of a central institution created issues that makes it difficult for LGBT students.
“Because [LGBT support] is not solely what I do, those programs and services are not coordinated as well as they could be,” said Ray. “The office will give these programs and services… stability, and credibility and accountability.”
According to Harlan, Pride Alliance is a major resource for LGBT students, who often coming to her and other Pride officers with problems they have. Although they are able to give advice from their own experience and refer them to campus services such as Dean Ray’s office and Counseling Center, Harlan says that Pride is often overwhelmed and do not have the training necessary to help students with sometimes serious problems.
“[The resouce center will] provide support from the institution to the students and also to support the students in getting what they need from the institution,” Harlan said. “[It will be] the voice of queer students; often those voices are hard to hear.”
Interviews of the three candidates for the director of the center will occur on the 22nd, 23rd and 27th of this month, and students will have the opportunity to speak with the candidates and hear their presentations. A selection committee, which includes one graduate and two undergraduate students, will state their recommendation with the final decision being made by vice presidents William Schafer and Archie Ervin.