LGBTQ center opens at the Student Center

Mariana Silva

Professor to receive award at opening

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community of Kent State will have a new place to gather and discuss the issues affecting their community.

The LGBTQ center will open today in Room 226M of the Student Center. A grand opening for the center will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. today in Room 204 of the Student Center.

“We have PRIDE, but we only have so much outreach,” PRIDE!Kent President Max Harrington said.

Harrington said bringing together the social and academic aspects of the LGBTQ community at the center will make the community and the issues it faces more visible.

“We will be working very hard on making it work, piece-by-piece, day-by-day. We are excited that it is actually here,” Harrington said.

President Lester Lefton, Alfreda Brown, vice-president for diversity, equity and inclusion, and Sue Doerfer, executive director of Equality Ohio, will attend the opening. Lefton and Brown will grant Dolores Noll, professor emeritus of English, the first Diversity Trailblazer Award.

“It makes sense for her to be the first,” said Molly Merryman, LGBT studies co-coordinator. “For her to come out of the closet and then start a student organization and start teaching those classes, that was an amazing act of courage.

“I think it really set the stage for Kent. These issues have sustained themselves because of what she started.”

Noll, 79, was the first professor to teach a gay and lesbian issues class at Kent State in 1972. Noll was also the founding adviser of Kent Gay Liberation, now PRIDE!Kent.

“I came out to my mother, and that was the hardest thing I ever did,” Noll said. “I couldn’t tell students to come out, and I couldn’t help them if I hadn’t done it myself. It was tough.”

Noll said she is very happy and honored to be the first recipient of the Trailblazer Award.

The professor said when she taught at Kent State, it was easier for students to sign up for a class that didn’t have the word gay on the title, thus she named the class sexual minorities. Noll said nobody ever told her she could lose her job at the university because of the classes she was teaching or the student organization she was advising.

Merryman said there isn’t a set agenda for what the LGBTQ center will offer, but some of the issues to be discussed at the center are the challenges faced by transgender students and other LGBTQ students who are black or have a disability.

“We really see the center facilitating that communication between students and administration,” Merryman said.

The center will eventually be student directed, but for now the staff is composed of volunteers from the LGBT studies program, Merryman said. She added that one of the goals for spring is to unite departments that work with LGBTQ issues and make them aware of what each one is working on, which would bring information together.

“We are really looking into students coming to talk to us and tell us what they need,” Merryman said. “I think the most important thing is to put across the message that we really want this to be an inclusive and open party, and allies are always welcome.”

Contact diversity reporter Mariana Silva

at [email protected].