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Student Movement Pushes for LGBTQ Center on Campus

February 21, 2012

Sophomore William Lukas

Millennials are often characterized as the generation to take charge and advocate for social causes using new technologies to garner support. Whether through involvement in large-scale movements like Occupy Wall Street or starting a local campaign to increase diversity initiatives on campus, Drexel students are active in facilitating change.

William Lukas, a sophomore sociology student and secretary of the Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality (FUSE), has acted as a catalyst in this student movement to establish a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGTBQ) students on campus.

“Drexel is stuck in the 80s in terms of dealing with diversity. The University is a top-tier school but one of many that does not have an LGBTQ Center,” says Lukas.

The movement was sparked by students’ personal narratives about how Drexel looks at diversity on campus and fueled through a petition on Change.org to garner student support in an effort to establish this center. The petition, which has a goal to mobilize the student body to support bringing this center to campus, currently has 739 signatures and more than a few dozen reasons from signatories as to why an LGBTQ center is important.

“LGBTQ students often feel unsupported and invisible on campus because there is no central office or resources specifically dedicated to these students. An LGBTQ Center on campus would allow for a health environment. It’s important for students to feel welcome,” says Lukas, who assisted Kenny Wittwer, a freshman sociology major, in drafting the proposal.

Their vision for the center focuses on five main goals: to act as a space for students to feel safe and comfortable to talk freely; to have education opportunities where students can see themselves reflected in literature and get better knowledge about health; to serve as a place for outreach by holding workshops and education the community; to act as a hub for LGBTQ groups because they are currently disconnected; and to eventually house a professional staff member to serve as a counselor for LGBTQ students.

“An LGBT Center would be an official gesture from the administration expressing support for the queer community at Drexel, which is a significant population of the student body whose needs are not adequately addressed on campus,” says Witter.

Dean of Students Dr. Dave Ruth and Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs Kerry Hooks have both been instrumental and supportive of this effort, according to Lukas.

“We definitely want to bring an LGBTQ center to campus and we’re working on it,” says Hooks, who is hoping the center will open this fall.

Hooks ran eight focus groups last year to assess student needs and all mentioned the need for an LGBTQ center.

“People are having the conversation about what we need now. I think we’re being much more proactive and students are being much more proactive,” says Hooks.

Some of these students, like Wittwer, work for Hooks as Intercultural Advocates. Their job is to work for the Office of Multicultural Programs and encourage an inclusive and global environment at Drexel through education and outreach.

“Drexel has a pretty diverse student body in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and all other cultural identifiers. The university is beginning to reflect that, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done,” says Wittwer.

OUTgrads, OUTlaws and FUSE student groups are all working together in this initiative.

--Stephanie Takach, University Communications