New space offers students a physical place to call their own
NKU is opening the second staffed LGBTQ center in the state of Kentucky this fall. The Office for LGBTQ Programs and Services is located on the third floor of the Student Union, in the same office space as the Office of Latino Affairs and African American Student Affairs.
Brian Buford, director for the University of Louisville’s LGBT Center, the first staffed center in the state, said the programs his center provides are overseen by student organizations at other institutions in the state, such as NKU’s common ground. Buford said students can expect NKU’s center to have similar programs.
U of L’s center provides counseling and support for students who may have had a hard time in high school, as well as visibility, so that these students know they have a safe place to go, according to Buford. For those students who are already comfortable, the center provides leadership development and activist training.
“It really makes all the difference in the world if you provide the space and the staff,” Buford said. “On one hand, that’s great [that students are providing the programs at other schools]. But students come and go, and the next group of students may not be ready to take that [leadership] on.”
According to Anita Adkins, a support specialist in Student Support Services and someone who several LGBTQ students call “momma,” students have wanted this center at NKU for several years. She credited the Student Government Association and the new administration, mainly President Geoffrey Mearns and Vice President of Student Affairs Peter Gitau, for the creation of the center.
Several recent NKU graduates said they wished they had a center they could go to while they were students.
Ian Olson, a 2013 graduate, said Common Ground is really helpful for LGBTQ students as a support group, especially for students who are having issues; though it would have been nice to have a physical space that would always be there, instead of having to move from room to room.
However, Michael Adkins, a 2012 graduate and founder of NKY Equality Now, said these student organizations can only go so far, in terms of helping students. Michael hopes the new center will support the organizations and “give them a backbone.”
Amanda Griffith, a 2012 graduate, said the most important thing about the center right now is hiring the right director. The hiring should be announced Aug. 22, according to Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple. Griffith said that the right director is someone who is able to work with students and can build connections with different community organizations.
“Community connections are everything,” she said.
One main concern is what many people are calling “growing pains.”
“This center will be responsible for creating activities and programming, and Common Ground and NKY [Equality Now] have been used to doing things by themselves,” Anita Adkins said.
However, Timothy Bell, the president of Common Ground, said he plans on collaborating with the center, although nothing is set in stone, due to the center not having a director currently.
No backlash has been heard from any parties, although many, including Nurse Michele Kay and Anita, say it is to be expected. Buford said most of the criticism for U of L’s center was heard from outside of the university when the center was opened in 2007, and very little to none was heard from within.