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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

LGBTQ+ Western starts its second quarter on campus

By Zoe Buchli

With winter quarter underway, LGBTQ+ Western enters its second quarter on Western’s campus advocating for LGBTQ+ students and staff.

In August 2018, L.K. Langley left their position at the Equal Opportunity Office and became director of LGBTQ+ Western.

“The mission [of LGBTQ+ Western] is to advance the holistic thriving of diverse LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff by collaboratively engaging the Western community with transformational knowledge, resources, advocacy and celebration,” they said.

They said it’s a bold and broad mission aimed to include everyone in the campus community, but in a way that centers around the needs and experiences of diverse LGBTQ+ people.

Right now, Langley said the office only consists solely of them, but that they collaborate with people all around campus, including students who work in the Queer Resource Center, LGBTQ+ clubs, and students and staff independent from the QRC and clubs.

“[Collaboration] is a really vital piece of the work,” they said.

QRC Community and Engagement Coordinator Nichole Vargas said one of the first times the QRC collaborated with LGBTQ+ Western was for an event about using personal pronouns.

A large component of LGBTQ+ Western is the events it hosts, Langley said. There’s a combination of educational events and social and community building events, they said.

“The educational events are intended to build the competencies of folks across campus to engage respectfully and inclusively with LGBTQ+ students and colleagues,” they said, “and also to provide learning opportunities for LGBTQ+ students.”

Vargas said the QRC and Langley co-hosted a social for queer students and staff on Feb. 12.

Vargas said the event was opportunity to bridge the gap between LGBTQ+ students and staff on campus.

Langley said there’s a panel they will be hosting with a number of colleagues on Feb. 27 about advocating for yourself with health and wellness providers. It’s in collaboration with the Counseling Center, Student Health Center, Consultation and Sexual Assault Support Services and Prevention and Wellness Services.

Langley in their office. // Photo by Zoe Buchli

This event came out of conversations Langley had with LGBTQ+ students who expressed interest in having more information about how to access health and wellness providers, they said.

Langley said they also visit classes to do outreach in classrooms.

They speak in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies courses, but also classes outside of WGSS. Early this quarter they visited an LGBT History class this quarter to introduce themselves and LGBTQ+ Western so students would know it is a resource on campus, Langley said.

Langley said they host office hours twice a week that are open to anyone, including faculty.

In addition to working together on campus events, Vargas said the QRC has monthly meetings with Langley to discuss what each group is working on, how they can help each other and what they can work on together.

“It’s really nice to have an admin person, someone who has more admin capabilities and life experience, to help us out in situation where we don’t know what to do with some problems that students may have,” Vargas said. “It’s nice to have that guidance that Langley provides.”

Langley said the university created the position recognizing the need for leadership that focused on inclusion of LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff.

“It was very much a community effort to create this position,” they said. “It was the work and the voices of a number of students and faculty and staff around campus.”

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Advocacy Council Chair Joanne DeMark said the council spent time lobbying for a professional LGBTQ+ staff position starting when Bruce Shepard was Western’s president.

She said a number of her colleagues on the council had come from other universities where there was a full-time LGBTQ+ staff person who worked on addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ students.

“You have students, you have trans students for example, who are looking to see themselves reflected on faculty and staff, and we’re not here,” she said.

The council gave a formal presentation on the importance of developing a professional LGBTQ+ staff position to President Bruce Shepard’s Task Force on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity in spring of 2016, but had been working on the idea of LGBTQ+ Western for at least a year prior, DeMark said.

She said the council and the task force took it to President Sabah Randhawa, who was very receptive. Provost Brent Carbajal and Vice President of Enrollment Services Melynda Huskey, along with the rest of the president’s cabinet, endorsed the idea.

DeMark said following this, a campus search committee was established to look for a director.

She said the committee looked at applicants from all over the nation.

“We as a council, as a faculty and staff council with student input, very much deliberated on how we could continue to make administration aware and key departments aware [of the importance of a LGBTQ+ staff position,]” she said.

LGBTQ+ Western is funded through state dollars, Langley said.

“I think that is really demonstrative of the university’s commitment to supporting this work,” they said.

The next event LGBTQ+ Western will be hosting is the panel on health and wellness services on Feb. 27, and all LGBTQ+ Western events are listed on the website.

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