Lehigh’s Pride Center for Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity has moved locations within the University Center to UC212, which is in the same wing as the Women’s Center and Office of Multicultural Affairs.
The center also hired a new director, Chelsea Fullerton, after the departure of Trish Boyles.
“It was important to the entire institution that the Pride Center was seen not as a hub for just LGBT students to come and find a safe space, but to promote institutional change – much like the Women’s Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs have for many years,” Fullerton said. “So, the move was in part symbolic – to show that we are a center, we are a source of support, but also a source of change and advocacy.”
Fullerton said the aim of the move was also to make the center more accessible to students. The old space, formerly known as the Rainbow Room, is now an office.
“The former location was maybe not the most friendly or welcoming depending on who you are,” she said. “You had to go up stairs and it was in a really visible location. You could see who was inside.”
Fullerton said the new location provides a more confidential and private space, so all students feel comfortable visiting the center.
Emma Strong, ’18, is the secretary of Spectrum, Lehigh’s gay-straight alliance. She said she is excited about the move because the wing with the Women’s Center and Office of Multicultural Affairs is very welcoming. She is hoping more people will feel comfortable enough to enter the Pride Center.
“I feel like (the move) is sort of bittersweet,” Strong said. “It was nice having (the Rainbow Room) in a public area, but at the same time, it’s better to have it a little more hidden away so it’s not as public. There was a bit of stigma that anyone who walked in had to be gay. People didn’t want to walk in because of that.”
Fullerton said the closer proximity to the Women’s Center and Office of Multicultural Affairs was a very important reason for the move.
She hopes to build a hub in the Pride Center, where people can use it for meetings, study groups and utilize it as a space of comfort.
“The Pride Center is about education, advocacy, also giving a safe space for students on campus to meet other students and just be a place to gather,” said Kim Ketterer, the office coordinator for the Pride Center. “I am excited about having a new space and a new director at the same time. I think that change is good.”
Spectrum vice president Samantha Randall, ’18, said she was surprised by the move.
“They didn’t let us know last year,” Randall said. “But, I don’t really mind much. It’s a little more secluded, so I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s definitely a better space for us.”
Beyond the Pride Center, Lehigh also has a new housing option in Warren Square A for LGBT students and allies called the Pride Community, open to both first-year students and upperclassmen.
“(The Pride Community) is for students who either prefer that kind of environment or students that need that kind of environment, such as students who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming or gender non-binary,” Fullerton said. She emphasized that students do not need to identify as LGBT to live in the Pride Community.