Home Campus LGBT Center’s move to Multicultural Center faces opposition from Student Senate

LGBT Center’s move to Multicultural Center faces opposition from Student Senate

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After the LGBT Center move was announced, students flocked to Student Senate to express dissatisfaction with the plans.

Dozens of students sat in on Student Senate’s Wednesday meeting to speak out on the university’s recent decision to merge the LGBT center into the Multicultural Center, a move Student Senate officially opposed at its meeting.

In an online statement this week, the university announced the LGBT center would be relocated in order to “accommodate the needs of the Center’s growing footprint on campus.” This relocation will move the center into a 1,200 square foot space in Baker Center, next to the Multicultural Center (MCC).

This new space is 400 feet larger than the former office on the third floor of Baker Center. However, the announcement was quickly met with hesitation and concerns from students.

Before the Senate meeting, several students representing the LGBT center, the Multicultural Center, and the Black Student Union spoke up about their reservations toward the change.

Many of them touched on their concerns of the university cutting down spaces for black students, decreasing privacy for queer students, and repurposing a space that was previously used as a meeting space by the Athens community and student groups such as the Muslim Student Union.

Isabela Gibson and Brianna McElridge, who are both commissioners for Black Affairs, wrote the bill that opposed the relocation, alongside Student Senate Vice President Hannah Burke. They wrote the bill shortly after finding out about the relocation last week, and were alarmed by the lack of communication with students.

No one in Student Senate was informed about the relocation, including Senate President Maddie Sloat. This lack of communication ultimately pushed them to write and bring forward the bill, but they hesitated when they found out LGBTQA Senator Korbyn Newman withdrew support for the bill.

Newman said that the 5,000 square foot MCC is often underutilized, and that it could be positive to move two diversity and inclusion offices close to each other. Newman also addressed some common concerns, such as reservations about decreased voice and privacy for LGBT students.

Being able to see the LGBT center from the escalators would be so beneficial to students who didn’t even know the center existed,” Newman said. “If they move the center it will also give a private entrance for students who are closeted or nervous to come to the center.”

However, even with Newman in favor of the change, many LGBT students were not. Destinee Jaram, who works in the LGBT center as a columnist and staff member, opposes the relocation and came to the Student Senate meeting to speak in favor of the Senate’s opposition.

Jaram specifically had issues with the fact that most of the new space would be dedicated to office space and would not be used by students. Jaram also opposed taking up space from an area dedicated to students of color.

“The students won’t get anything out of this,” Jaram said. “It’s just a way to take away the one space for people of color on a predominantly white campus. It’s racist.”

Eden Tadesse, treasurer of the Black Student Union, also opposed taking away space from the MCC. However, she also strongly supports the LGBT center and believes in the importance of both groups having their own spaces.

“Each community deserves their own space where we can just fellowship with one another and people who look like us and act like us,” Tadesse said. “This doesn’t mean we don’t want them, we know they deserve a bigger space. But just because you’re giving to one minority doesn’t mean you need to take away from another. The administration just wants to throw all of us quote on quote others into a miscellaneous box.”

Ultimately, Gibson believes it is the voices of students like Jaram, Tadesse, and many others that helped the bill pass by making it truly impactful to Senate.

“It proves that it’s more than just a bill,” Gibson said. “It’s more than just words on paper and five people from senate speaking on behalf of something. The MCC means something to people, not only to the black community but the LGBT community. So, hearing people explain what the MCC and LGBT means to them brought the bill to life.”

 

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