Carrying forward a tradition of inclusive excellence, Hobart and William Smith officially opened the new on-campus LGBTQ+ Resource Center during a standing-room-only dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 4 at de Cordova Hall.
The gathering, which brought together students, faculty, staff, alums and friends of the Colleges, featured a keynote address by Savas Abadsidis ’96, the managing editor for Retrograde Communications, which produces content for the country’s top LGBTQ+ publications including The Advocate. Remarks were also delivered by President Gregory J. Vincent ’83, Dean of William Smith College Lisa Kaenzig and Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Michelle Martin-Baron.
Located on the first floor of de Cordova Hall, the LGBTQ+ Resource Center offers a safe, physical space for students and organizations to meet and find campus and community resources. The Center provides programming and outreach initiatives to support and educate regarding the needs of LGBTQ+ community members. Its opening coincides with the 15th anniversary of the LGBT Studies program at HWS, which was the first of its kind in the country.
“It’s an auspicious time to be opening an LGBTQ+ Resource Center – this year marks the 15th anniversary of the LGBT Studies Program at the Colleges, which was the first of its kind in the U.S.,” said Martin-Baron, a member of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center Steering Committee. “It’s also the 45th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Program. We have an incredible legacy here at HWS. But institutional structures don’t automatically translate to cultural transformation, and that’s why this Resource Center is so important.”
The LGBTQ & Allies group, which is composed of faculty and staff who are working toward improving the campus culture around LGBTQ issues, started the initial work on bringing the Center to fruition. The Center’s Steering Committee was established to guide the process forward. Committee members are Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and Dean of Student Engagement and Conduct Brandon Barile, Residence Coordinator of the Mini-Quad and Sherrill Hall Christine Lucht, Martin-Baron, Michael Thompson ’18, and Title IX Prevention and Education Coordinator Katie Stiffler.
“We’re excited about the potential buzzing in this room and at this Center – and we know that this community can help us transform this realized vision into something truly extraordinary, beyond even our current imaginings,” Martin-Baron said.
During his remarks, Vincent underscored that the Colleges remain committed to advancing an intellectual community where equity and respect are valued. “This is the culmination of the hard work and commitment of many people in this community to make sure that everyone can bring their whole selves to the Colleges,” Vincent said.
“While we can celebrate this work, and this is great manifestation of that, we have a lot more work to do,” Vincent said. “I promise you and pledge that I will continue my advocacy for inclusive excellence, and specifically to make sure this space is one where everyone can thrive.”
During his keynote address, Abadsidis reflected on the challenges that he and LGBT community members faced as well as the progress made for equity and justice during his time as a student.
“And we did make real change,” Abadsidis said, reflecting on the courage, persistence and enduring support of many HWS faculty members over the years. “In this way, the Colleges dispensed an education in realpolitik that has propelled me throughout my life and career. By the time I left, we had created a place where we could exist, and also redefined what the coordinate system could be: not one that was only based on gender equality. But one that incorporated the various intersectional identities of all of us and eventually would create the community you enjoy today.”
Kaenzig reflected on her 14 years at the Colleges and the commitment of many to make the Center possible.
“From the earliest faculty, staff and students who were brave enough to come out or speak out as allies, change has been happening here,” Kaenzig said. “I am so grateful to all of those who have spoken out, gotten in the way and demanded change – so many generations of our community have contributed to this moment.”
Kaenzig also noted that it was advancements in areas such as programming and the curriculum that made it possible for the Colleges to be recognized for inclusive excellence at the national level, including on Campus Pride’s “Best of the Best” Top 30 list of the most LGBTQ-friendly campuses in the nation.
“The Colleges have long been leaders on these issues, and the world is watching what we do here, on this campus where our value of gender expression in all of its many beautiful forms is literally in the very fabric of this place, in our history as the Colleges, and in each one of us,” she said.
Participants of the ribbon-cutting were: President Vincent, Kim Wilson Vincent, Abadsidis, Barile, Martin-Baron, Stiffler, as well as Resource Center student staff members Valerie Cuellar ’20, Josue Cuevas ’20 and Lester Gamez ’19.
The LGBTQ+ Resource Center’s first program will welcome Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8 in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.