Members of the LGBT community want more campus support and Rainbow Research and Resource Center

Liana Hofer

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Martel Okonji, 21, sociology major, addresses health center concerns geared toward a lack of information provided for gay students at CSUN Wednesday. Photo Credit: Tyler Ross / Staff Photographer

CORRECTION: The 20 pages of student signatures were not against the funding of the Matador statue. The petition is in support of the creation of a Queer Resource Center. A.S. President Conor Lansdale’s was mispelled.

Members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community attended the Presidents’ Town Hall Meeting Wednesday evening to voice concern for campus representation of their community.

In the first of two meetings, Jolene Koester, university president, Steven Stepanek, faculty president and Conor Landsdale, A.S. president, answered questions from a room full of students decked out in purple shirts, bandanas, and yarmulkes.  Purple was worn in honor of “Spirit Day,” which recognized young victims of anti-gay harassment.

“You look gorgeous,” Koester said.  “The room is a statement about the community and your commitment.”

Among the matters brought before the three presidents was the desire for more campus support of LGBT students, particularly in light of the recent suicide of a gay student from Rutgers University, who was a casualty of homophobic bullying.

“Sometimes I’d like to wrap the university in a blanket and keep us away from the world, but we can’t,” Koester said.  “You have my pledge that we’ll work in the ways that make the most sense while still protecting freedoms.”

Many students expressed the need for a permanent LGBT resource center on campus and were met with statistics on the cost of creating such a meeting place.

Elizabeth Say, dean of the College of Humanities, said that while steps have been taken to create a Rainbow Research and Resource Center, there are still financial and bureaucratic hurdles that must be overcome.

“The question is, ‘are there enough people in the San Fernando area who have money, and who want to support something like this?’” Say said.  “We have to figure out if it is feasible.”

Say said that while they are taking the request for a center seriously, the cost will be upwards of millions of dollars, especially considering it will involve an on-going program with the need for staff.

Students brought up the absence of up-to-date homosexual health information on campus as more evidence that a resource center is needed.  Senior Martel Okonji, 21, recounted his story of frustration with the health center.

“Today, when I went into the Klotz Health Center, I was disappointed beyond measure,” said the sociology major.  “I went in to get information on gay sex, and all I found was a pamphlet from 2002.  I thought, ‘This can’t be!’”

In response to various students’ complaints about the lack of help available at the health center, Landsdale said measures would be taken to solve the problem.

“That is a disservice on our part,” Landsdale said.  “The least we can do is have a pamphlet for you to get information.  We’re going to work on that.”

Various students also addressed the future plans to erect a Matador statue on campus. The subject of the $150,000 bronze statue was met with much opposition, along with 20 pages of student signatures against the funding of the statue.

Koester said the sculpture is mainly being financed by gifts from alumni.  Even so, she said that until they raise adequate money, it is by no means “a done deal.”  In regards to students’ dissatisfaction with the plans for the statue, she spoke on the nature of compromise that is involved with the college community.

“The university is a place where there’s lots and lots of desire, and there’s lots and lots of need,” Koester said.  “But we do have to make choices.”

Among the other topics brought up at the meeting were the Upper-Division Writing Proficiency Exam, the need for more summer and winter classes, and the difficulty transfer students have in transferring units.