|Photo by Peter Phun|
Pat Walsh, the founding director of UC Irvine's LGBT Resource Center, addresses the audience during a panel discussion at the UQ Conference at UC Riverside. Also pictured, from left: Beverley McCreary (UC San Diego, 1999-2000), Debbie Bazarsky (UC Santa Barbara, 1999-2000), Walsh, and Billy Curtis (UC Berkeley, 1998-present).
More than 300 people from over 50 colleges, universities and community colleges came together Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 to celebrate 20 years of LGBT progress on campus at the UQ Conference held at the University of California, Riverside.
"The UQ Conference brought together a diverse group LGBT people and their allies and allowed us together to reflect on our progress and aspirations for the future, as we lead the way for LGBT-inclusion on campus," UCR LGBT Resource Center Director and conference organizer Nancy Jean Tubbs said.
The one-day conference was highlighted by a panel discussion that featured seven of the nine founding directors of LGBT centers from the University of California campuses that have centers.
"It was incredibly valuable to bring generations of queer UC activists together to reflect on, honor, and celebrate our twenty years of accomplishments as well as to put our heads together to address the work still to be done," said Deborah Abbott, founding director of the Lionel Cantú GLBTI Resource Center at UC Santa Cruz.
Panel moderator Shaun Travers, UC San Diego diversity officer and LGBT Resource Center director, asked the panel to share their "queer super power." Answers ranged from the "femme subversiveness" of Debbie Bazarsky, UC Santa Barbara founding director and current LGBT resource director at Princeton University, to "Elastic Man" Billy Curtis of UC Berkeley, proud of his ability to stretch resources.
Other panel topics included the skills needed to direct a campus LGBT center, the "lavender ceiling" for those wanting to move up into administration, and the importance of student activism.
"Behind the founding of most campus LGBT centers you will find the activism of students. Your voices matter," said Steven Shum, UC Riverside LGBT Center founding director. The sentiment was echoed by other panelists, who shared stories of the power of students to create change on campus.
Over the last 20 years, the number of college and university LGBT centers in California has increased to 26, including centers at each of the first nine UC schools.
"It is amazing to see where the system as a whole has gone over the years," said Allison Subasic, founding director of the UC Davis LGBTA Center. "There is still work to be done, but compared to where things where in the beginning, our fight for basic rights such as domestic partner benefits and an inclusive non-discrimination policy, things have really come full circle."
Timothy P. White, the former chancellor of the University of California Riverside - and current chancellor of the California State University system, was honored as an ally of the LGBT community with an award renamed in his honor.
Formerly known as the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of LGBTs Outstanding Ally Award, it was named after White in recognition of his efforts to make UCR a more inclusive campus for LGBT people.
"In his time at UCR, Tim White made a personal commitment to create a more inclusive atmosphere at UCR, and he received the award in 2010," said Toi Thibodeaux, UCR LGBT Resource Center program coordinator and co-chair of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of LGBTs. "He was the first UCR chancellor to attend an Allies Seminar and showed tremendous support to the community, including inviting a panel of LGBT students to speak with his cabinet. He encouraged administrators to attend Allies and LGBT 101 trainings, supported events like the QPOC conference and not only created an ‘It Gets Better' video, but hand-delivered it to the LGBT Resource Center, where he watched it with students."
Although White was unable to attend the event in person, he said in a letter to the conference that his support for the LGBT community was rooted in his own experiences of rejection as an immigrant teenager in California.
"The hurts inflicted during my early years in this country enabled me to be sensitive to those who are marginalized by the so-called mainstream," it read. "The lessons you taught me and the insight you gave me I carry with me to the CSU system where I hope that your messages and those of our own LGBT communities will continue to build a safe and enriching environment for every member of the queer community."
As an institution, UC Riverside has been at the forefront of LGBT progress. In 1993, the school established the first professionally-staffed campus LGBT resource center west of Iowa and in 1996 the school became the first in the state to offer a LGBT studies minor. In 2005, UCR became the first public institution in the nation to offer a gender-neutral housing option to all students. As a system, the University of California provides domestic partner health and retirement benefits and transgender-inclusive health insurance for all employees and students. UCR has hosted the 2003 and 2007 Western Regional LGBTQIA College Conference and also the 2011 Queer People of Color Conference.
Tubbs credited students for many of UCR's accomplishments. "We wouldn't have Stonewall Hall nor Gender Neutral Housing without the proposal submitted by members of Students for the Equality of Queers, or SEQs. We wouldn't have gained trans-inclusive health insurance for students without the brave testimony of transgender students to the campus health committees. They sparked the changes that administrators implemented."
For information on the conference, visit their website at http://uq.ucr.edu.
Additional Comments from Founding Directors
"At one count, UCLA had 24 - yes, 24 - different LGBT organizations, mostly for students. Some were organized around racial/ethnic backgrounds, others according to student, faculty or staff affiliation, and others according to particular schools or majors. We worked with all of them, and with many allied groups as well. I would like to say to today's UCLA students: In the end, all the struggles, all the protests, all the meetings, all the studies and hard work and tears and happiness are about who we are, and who we love. Whoever you are, and whomever you love, take a moment to be proud of yourself, and celebrate yourself and your communities."
Charles Outcalt -- founding director of UCLA LGBT Center, 1995 to 1997
Today, Charles lives in London with his partner and his three children.
"The center at UC Davis, is a hub of student experience, education, support, outreach and action. It also has grown and developed over the years and ensures and place for work to continue to support students and work to ensure campus climate is supportive for all LGBTA campus constituents and alumni."
Allison Subasic -- founding director of UC Davis LGBTA Center, 1999-2001,
Current director of the LGBTA Student Resource Center at The Pennsylvania State University.
"Prior to the formal founding of the Cantú Queer Center at UC Santa Cruz in 1997, queer students were emerging from hostile high school environments onto our campus with few coordinated resources and no safe and accessible queer-centric space in which to heal and explore their sexualities and genders. Queer and questioning students received no consistent guidance from professional staff. The UCSC campus community rarely benefited from queer cultural programming. Prior to the professionally staffed centers, queer faculty were often closeted until tenure. Domestic partners of GLB staff and faculty had no access to health or retirement benefits that their heterosexual colleagues enjoyed. Transgender students, staff, and faculty paid for all of their transition needs out-of-pocket. It has largely been the center directors who have led the movement for GLBTI equity within the UC system over the past twenty years and who continue to do so today. The impact of our collective advocacy has been significant.
One critical challenge is to stave off budget driven reorganizations impacting some of our queer resource centers. The Cantú Queer Center at UC Santa Cruz is losing one of its two professional staff members-and our only staff person of color. On a campus where nearly one in five students identifies as queer, this downsizing will have a large negative impact on our capacity to provide safety net services and queer cultural programs to our students, staff, faculty, and alumni."
Deborah Abbott, founding director of the Cantú Queer Center at UC Santa Cruz, 1997 to present