Remodeled LGBTQ Student Center opens with energetic ceremony

Jennifer Kulics, the associate vice president of student affairs (left), Alfreda Brown, the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, and President Beverly Warren react to remarks during the LGBTQ Student Center’s grand opening ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.

Nicholas Hunter

Over 50 students, faculty and staff members gathered in the Student Center basement for the grand opening of the LGBTQ Student Center.

“Today really symbolizes … a major accomplishment for our center,” said Ken Ditlevson, the director of the LGBTQ Student Center. “We expanded from 130 square feet to over 1,700 square feet, and that’s a big accomplishment.”

The new facility, with multiple office spaces, large picture windows and furniture that has not yet arrived, dwarfs the “closet” that last served as the LGBTQ Student Center — and now serves as a copy machine room.

“I can only imagine … what it was like to have the … 2010 celebration of the closet,” President Beverly Warren said. “But, you know, we need closets to come out of, and we need spaces to be ourselves.”

The laughter from Warren’s joke wasn’t exclusive to the moment; energy radiated throughout the room as students, staff and faculty members poured in and out of the new center. Attendees were all smiles and warm embraces.

Alfreda Brown, the vice president for the division of diversity, equity and inclusion, was one of the original faculty members to push for a designated space for LGBTQ students on campus.

“There’s something about Kent State,” Brown said. “There’s something about who we are. There’s something about that inclusive aspect that we have that really helps our students to feel part of the whole.”

Jordin Manning, a sophomore zoology major, stressed the need for a large, designated space for the LGBTQ community.

“Not to say that the aura (of the old center) wasn’t welcoming, but the space being so cramped — it was like, ‘You guys are nice and everything, but I feel like if I’m in there I won’t be able to escape,’” Manning said. “Now that this space is here, it feels like it can only get better from here.”

Rue Munroe, a sophomore theatre studies major, agreed with Manning, reflecting on their first experiences with the old center. They remember LGBTQ students sitting outside the office to meet because there was so little space.

“It felt like I couldn’t talk about certain things,” Munroe said. “I couldn’t talk about my gender identity or my sexuality, because I felt there was other students who may not be as welcoming of my identity eavesdropping and making me feel bad about myself. We can freely roam. We can freely talk in an inclosed space and feel protected and feel loved.”

Katie Matisse, the program coordinator for the LGBTQ Center, presented the “Pink Queer Bell of Progress” for Warren to ring, which concluded the event.

“We’re gonna ring (the bell) loud and proud, we’re gonna ring it so that it reverberates — we’re gonna ring it so that it makes a noise of welcoming and it makes a noise of ‘we are here and part of this community,’” Warren said.

The bell has only been rung twice before:  when the first LGBTQ Student Center was established  and when the preferred naming policy was enacted at Kent State last fall.

“This center being constructed, to me and to our students, really shows a commitment from the university that we really believe in equality and believe in inclusion,” Ditlevson said. “Everyone should feel included at the table. This really stands for exactly that — that it’s not just talk, but that Kent really puts resources into making sure that everyone feels included.”

Nicholas Hunter is the academic affairs reporter. Contact him at [email protected].