New LGBT center will open in old office space

Kelly Petryszyn

Students will no longer be at a loss of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered resources as Kent State prepares to open its first LGBT center in January. Kent State will join seven other universities with LGBT centers in Ohio.

“I think this is a significant point for LGBTQ issues at Kent State University,” said Molly Merryman, associate professor of justice studies. Merryman will be the co-coordinator of the LGBT minor in the spring. Former co-coordinator Richard Berrong, a modern and classical languages professor, resigned.

The other co-coordinator of the LGBT minor, Dan Nadon, said the center is long overdue. Previously, the interdisciplinary minor had no office space. Students did not have any place to go to communicate with faculty.

“We were living out of a suitcase,” the associate professor of theatre said.

The center will be housed in open office space in the Center for Student Involvement. Since the space already exists, this addition will not cost very much, said Greg Jarvie, interim vice president of enrollment management and student affairs and dean of students.

Although the exact purpose of the center is still being shaped, Nadon said he envisions it as a place people can go to lounge in. There will be a small meeting room as well.

Senior psychology major and LGBT minor Abby McGinty said she is “so thankful” to have a center on campus soon. McGinty, who is an ally herself, said she hopes that whether people are gay or straight, they will use this center as an opportunity to support the LGBT community.

The idea for the center sprang out of a few comments made at a meeting. Merryman explained her frustrations with the LGBT program – that there is no permanent space or funding – and Jarvie listened.

“This takes us to a new level of support for our students,” Jarvie said.

Alfreda Brown, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, is also a supporter of this center. She said the center is important because it gives the LGBT community recognition on the Kent State campus. It also provides an opportunity for the university to better understand LGBT concerns.

Not only will the center be open, but the LGBT minor will also be restructured. There may be more class times and changes to the list of classes that have LGBT-related content. The addition of special topics courses will be encouraged, and the addition of online classes will be considered.

Another possible change is the last course in the LGBT minor, individual investigation, which requires students to complete an independent study with faculty members.

“We require it and then can’t back it up with appropriate opportunity,” Nadon said.

Merryman said there are issues with students being able to find a professor to work on this study with them, since professors don’t get paid for it. To solve this, she recommended finding a different capstone course with LGBT content.

McGinty welcomes this change. She said she is currently in the “overwhelming” process of trying to set up her individual investigation and is having struggles, in addition to scheduling issues. The limited availability of classes for the minor has pushed back her plans to graduate in May to August.

Jarvie said his division is providing funding for a full-time faculty member to teach the introduction to LGBT studies class in exchange for LGBT affiliate faculty and staff to work the center on a volunteer basis.

Nadon said this center is a stride for the LGBT community at Kent State.

“The opportunities are endless,” he said. “It’s an exciting time. It’s a new time. I think both Molly and I are happy to push the boundaries and see what we can make of this.”

Contact diversity reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected]

Have advice for the LGBT center?

If students have any issues, suggestions or concerns about the LGBT center or minor, e-mail Dan Nadon at [email protected] or Molly Merryman at [email protected]