LGBTQ Student Center provides a safety net for those whose family disowns them after ‘coming out’

Sierra Campbell

October hosts LGBTQ History Month and National Coming Out Day. Four in 10 people who come out and identify with the LGBTQ community are rejected by their friends and family, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Kent State is a part of a group of several similar universities that provide an emergency scholarship exclusively for its LGBTQ students who have lost the financial and emotional support from those once close to them.

The Campus Pride Index rates universities on 10 standards of how safe, beneficial and progressive the environment is for LGBTQ students.

Kent State University was ranked 4 ½ out of 5 stars on Campus Pride Index for its inclusivity and available resources including, counseling and legal services, the LGBTQ library and the emergency fund.

The emergency fund was created in 2013 by Doctor Molly Merryman, director of gender and sexuality studies, for those who lost their family’s financial support after coming out.

The fund is supported by the Rainbow Run/That Gay 5k, a fundraiser held by the center, through ticket sales to go towards the fund. Outside fundraisers have also been held by the honors college fraternity to help replace the funds.

The requirements to receive the funds at Kent are more informal than other institutions. Indiana University’s alumni association offers an LGBT scholarship that has a stricter process for students to go through.

Students meet with the director of the LGBTQ Student Center, Ken Ditlevson, who picks the student based on their own word that they are in need of financial help.

“The process to access the funds is meant to be an ease on the student. So we do not check student’s financial aid records,” Ditlevson said.

The center does not disclose why the student has received the scholarship to the university or the family of the student to protect the student’s privacy. Those who wish to access funds must have completed at least one semester at KSU and are only allowed access once in an academic year.

Five hundred dollars is the typical amount given, but there is no limit to what the student can receive. Each student’s financial need is different and special accommodations can be made. The scholarship is not given in cash or put into personal bank accounts, however, it is placed in student’s bursar’s account to be used for books and other school-related supplies. The goal of the fund is to help students get to graduation.

“I know that this fund has made the difference with [alumni]. I am confident they would have not made it to graduation without it,” Ditlevson said.

Since the beginning of this fall semester, the center has already helped nine LGBTQ students.

“It’s hard being the so-called “odd” person in your family or group of friends. Then you come to college and make a new family. Things like that fund make it easier to call Kent home for some people,” said Chinonso Aladi, a senior fashion design major and ally of the community.

Sierra Campbell is the women and gender issues reporter. Contact her at [email protected].