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article imageKent State Opens LGBTQ Student Center Special

By Samantha A. Torrence     Mar 26, 2010 in Lifestyle
Kent State University has a proud history of supporting Gay Rights. The University now offers a student center to the LGBTQ student community.
Since the 1970's Kent State University in Ohio has had a proud tradition of being on of the first and leading colleges in recognizing and promoting gay rights and education. Through their programs and student groups, first started by Dr. Dolores Noll, Gail Pertz and Bill Hoover, Kent State has reached out to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) student. Their hard work established the Kent Gay Liberation Front which has morphed over the last 40 years to be called PRIDE.
PRIDE celebrated the official opening of the LGBTQ Student Center at Kent State on March 11th. The Center, located at room 226M at the University, was a concept 40 years in the making. Molly Merryman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Justice Studies; Co-Coordinator of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Center, remarked at the grand opening ceremony that "this year the time was finally right."
Dr. Merryman is a co-coordinator of the LGBTQ Center and Studies with Daniel Raymond Nadon, Associate Professor for the School of Theatre and Dance. Together they work towards helping students and faculty with issues surrounding the LGBTQ community at Kent and in the local area. Through the center the pair hopes that students will have available to them information and support as well as a connection to other LGBTQ groups at other universities.
From the official press release: The new center will house the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies and offer varied services and resources to university students. The center will serve as a liaison between LGBTQ students and the administration and faculty. The office will also maintain a calendar of activities and events related to the LGBTQ community and coordinate programs with LGBTQ centers at other universities.
The LGBTQ center is an important aspect of Kent's Campus. Despite great strides in American culture towards accepting LGBTQ people, there is still much prejudice and hurt experienced on deeply personal levels.
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In an interview with Digital Journal, Dr. Nadon expressed the positives and negatives that still surround LGBTQ students and faculty in today's culture.
Digital Journal: Is there are large group of LGBTQ students within the student population? And do they feel they are accepted by Kent State and the other students or just tolerated?
Dr. Nadon: There are a wide variety of experiences in the LGBTQ population. Some remain closeted and afraid, while an increasing number are confident, out, and proud. Certainly, youth today are more accepting than they were a decade ago, which allows LGBTQ youth to be more confident and less isolated.
Digital Journal: It seems Kent State has a wonderful history of promoting the acceptance and safety of LGBTQ students, and with the new center it is taking further strides. Is there anything more that Kent State can do to promote the LGBTQ students and faculty and add to their success?
Dr. Nadon: I believe that our administration and faculty are genuinely supportive and have responded to our needs as they arise. I believe having the center will allow us to identify these needs and to communicate them effectively to the administration.
Digital Journal: In the information you provided, there was a part dealing with support for LGBTQ students, specifically in coming to terms with who they are an giving them the courage to tell their parents. Over the years have you found that it is easier for kids to come to their parents with this information? I can imagine the support of other LGBTQ students would mean alot to someone who is having a hard time connecting with their family.
Dr. Nadon: Families, too, are more accepting and many celebrate their LGBTQ siblings, children, and parents. However, there are still many stories of neglect and abuse that face LGBTQ youth. We are not out of the woods yet. There are still stunningly high suicide rates for our youth.
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Indeed there are stunningly high suicide rates, especially amongst LGBTQ teenagers who are 33 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. In one study conducted by Dr. Caitlyn Ryan found that LGBTQ teenagers are at higher risk due to not only peer ridicule, but unhealthy reactions from parents and close family members.
Published in the journal Pediatrics in 2008**, the study demonstrated that those who experienced high levels of rejection were 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to suffer severe depression and were also more likely to use recreational drugs or engage in unprotected sex.
Kent State University has not only accepted, but celebrated the diversity contained within the campus. Hopefully the new student center will be a comfort and a positive influence to not only the LGBTQ students, but also any student on campus who values the diversity of life.
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