Members of Case Western Reserve University's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community soon will have a place on campus to call their own. As part of its efforts toward increased inclusiveness, Case Western Reserve will open a new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center this spring.
The LGBT Center's mission is to provide an inviting place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, faculty, staff and alumni. It also welcomes supporters, friends, family and those who want to learn more about LGBT issues.
To advance the LGBT Center's efforts, the university is recruiting a part-time coordinator to manage programming, services and advocacy efforts. This individual also will work closely with The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
"These initiatives mark important signs of progress at Case Western Reserve," President Barbara R. Snyder said. "They build on years of hard work by many students, staff and faculty, and represent an opportunity to increase inclusion and awareness across our university."
The new LGBT Center will be housed in what is now Thwing Center's Hitchcock Lounge, along with several adjacent areas (take a virtual tour). It will include a lounge, kitchenette, office, and study and meeting space. It has been designed to offer areas that encourage informal gatherings as well as more structured events. In addition, the LGBT Center will provide places where people can seek both information and support.
The renovation has been made possible through a generous donation from a private foundation.
Jes Sellers, co-chair of the LGBT Committee and director of University Counseling Services, expressed deep gratitude for the foundation’s gift. He said that the new LGBT Center "will be a place where LGBT students will have a sense of belonging and comfort."
In the past, Sellers explained, some members of the LGBT community questioned their identity and place on campus. Today's generation has different experiences that they want to celebrate and share. The LGBT Center represents a natural step in that evolution.
"To the rest of the campus community, it gives this group heightened visibility," said Jane Daroff, also an LGBT Committee co-chair and a social worker with University Counseling Services. "It's the university recognizing their existence on campus."
Locating the new LGBT Center in Thwing made sense on multiple levels. First, Thwing is the university's primary building for undergraduates, housing the bookstore, the Undergraduate Student Government, the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women and several other student-oriented organizations. Second, the architecture of Hitchcock Lounge lent itself to the kind of warm and comforting environment the university and foundation hoped to create.
"This building is rich in history and architectural heritage," said University Architect Margaret Carney. "The foundation's staff walked through this space and immediately appreciated not only its key location, but also the inherent beauty of the architecture itself."
As part of the project, many architectural details removed during earlier renovations are being restored. The exterior doors, which face Euclid Avenue, are being replaced with a new door that closely resembles those from the building as it was first constructed in 1897. While that door is an emergency exit, it and three others being added to the interior of the space will add significantly to the sense of history and authenticity of the space.
In addition, the renovation aims to be environmentally friendly. Sustainable design elements include bamboo flooring, non-toxic paints and finishes, LED lighting and recycled furniture.
"We were able to incorporate some antique pieces of furniture which had come out of other CWRU buildings," Carney said. They "will enhance the feeling of warmth and permanence within the LGBT Center."
The new LGBT Center will include a space christened the Hart Crane Reading Room, named in honor of the gay Ohio poet who attended Western Reserve University in the early 1920s. Crane was born in Garrettsville, but spent much of his young life living with his grandmother in a house on East 115th Street. His best-known works include a series of poems called Voyages and The Bridge, a mammoth effort intended to serve as a more hopeful counterpoint to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. The campus has two markers honoring Crane, but this will be the first campus space to bear his name.
The new LGBT Center will provide a long-awaited home for members of the LGBT community and their allies. It also will serve as a source of information and insight for those who have lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender children or loved ones. Finally, it also will be a place that welcomes alumni and prospective students, faculty and staff.
For more information about the University's new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, visit the LGBT Center's web site. It includes information about upcoming events, policies and resources. The site also showcases special opportunities, such as the LGBT Center's sponsorship of the 10% Series of the 2010 Cleveland International Film Festival.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.