The Pride Center, which serves to educate and provide a safe space for those who identify as LGBTQIA, has begun hosting Cookies and Community events every Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. to encourage new faces to stop by the space and learn about the office’s programs and mission.
The center, which moved from the Rainbow Room to new space on the second floor of the University Center last semester, decided to host the event to welcome people to its new location, said Andrea Barker, assistant director of Student Affairs. She hopes students will feel more comfortable using the resources of the center if they have already been there for Cookies and Community.
“Regardless of where you are in your own identity or if you identify as an ally, and you know where to go or you know where you can send a friend or send a student, then you are much more likely to help someone find those resources and utilize those resources yourself if need be,” Barker said. “I was here when the Pride Center was in the old space, and in the new space I think that it made sense to have it by the other centers.”
Kim Ketterer, the office coordinator for the Pride Center, said the center is active and has put positive policies in place. One such policy includes the new gender-neutral bathrooms that were recently introduced.
To strengthen the relationship between the LGBTQIA community and the greater Lehigh community, the center has opened a search for a new assistant director. The assistant director will be more involved in programming and planning, and will help expand the center’s ability to do educational programs like safe zone training.
Ketterer said this job opening shows the Pride Center is growing. The center works to provide services for LGBTQIA members of the Lehigh community as well as create a more welcoming campus community.
The Princeton Review ranked Lehigh No. 11 in the most LGBTQIA-unfriendly college campuses in 2015.Chelsea Fullerton, the director of the Pride Center, said the Princeton Review does not give an accurate or scientific rating. The survey given by Princeton Review takes a small percentage of students from each campus, Fullerton said.
Ruling a college to be LGBTQIA friendly or unfriendly relies on a variety of many other factors, Fullerton said, and she does not think this statistic accurately portrays Lehigh’s campus culture.
Campus Pride, an online community, has a Campus Pride Index in which they look at a college’s overall indication of institution commitment to LGBTQIA-inclusive policy, program and practice, Fullerton said. Lehigh has a 2.5-star rating on Campus Pride, which is about average with other schools, and she thinks this ranking is more accurate.
Fullerton said the Campus Pride ranking shows the ways in which Lehigh is ahead of the curve in some things and behind it in others. She said Lehigh has made changes including the relocation of the Pride Center, the new gender-inclusive bathrooms and the creation of the PRIDE Community.
The PRIDE Community is a gender-inclusive housing option that is part of the Live Lehigh housing program. The PRIDE Community seeks to provide an inclusive and welcoming community for individuals of all genders and sexualities.
One area in which Lehigh is not as LGBTQIA forward is not easily allowing changes, such as changing a person’s name or gender, in the Lehigh system, Fullerton said.
“I have been here less than a year and I have seen progress being made,” Fullerton said. “But I do think there is still work to be done.”
The Pride Center is focusing on outreach and programming to help students get more involved and feel more comfortable.
The center also took a group of students and faculty to see “Fun Home,” a Broadway show in New York about identity development, Barker said. She is also the co-chair of Lehigh’s faculty and staff Pride Network. Those surveyed said they felt their identity was stronger after the trip.
Barker works with faculty and staff of Lehigh who either identify or ally with the LGBTQIA community. She said, through an online listserv, faculty and staff who are interested in sustaining a welcoming environment for those who identify as LGBTQIA, will be able connect and use the space for discussions.