Our view: Don’t lose the momentum

Kent State may finally make some progress.

Last week, an Akron businessman donated $20,000 to benefit the university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students – only the beginning of an endowment that will eventually add up to about $2 million.

Although university policy mandates that the money not be spent for 18 months and a committee has yet to decide what to do with the fund, we’re sure this means a positive change for the university.

And it’s about time.

While PRIDE!Kent has been relatively quiet this semester, it has previously been one of the most active groups on campus. To supplement PRIDE!Kent, students created the Queer Liberation Front in October 2006. Both groups are ardent supporters of LGBT rights and tolerance on campus and elsewhere.

So while there’s no way to measure the number of LGBT students at Kent State, the strength of these groups shows there is a need for more university support of this growing community.

As it is, the LGBT studies minor is one of the smallest academic programs in the university, with only six students participating last year. With more financing and staffing, the program will be able to attract students and faculty otherwise unaware of it. Groups like PRIDE!Kent and QLF, along with recent development with the faculty union contract renewal, have shown that there is already an interest in LGBT issues on campus – the university just needs to put its money where its mouth is and actually support diversity.

That’s where the new endowment – the first at Kent State of its kind – comes in. With so much funding, the possibilities are nearly endless.

PRIDE!Kent President Leora Rzepka told the Stater she’d like to see the money spent on quality educational programs and scholarships.

“Our greatest vision would be to have both the education and scholarship aspect,” she said. “While scholarships are important to get here, education and promotion are important once you get here.”

She’s right. Scholarships are one thing, but an interested, tolerant community will play a much greater role in attracting and retaining LGBT students. Dedicate funds to programming, bringing engaging speakers to campus, recruiting faculty and supporting student groups.

How about the creation of an LGBT resource center on campus? There’s already a library, but few students know about it, and it lacks ability to help students much. A resource center would serve as a permanent safe zone and central location for LGBT students seeking support, students and faculty involved in the minor and a headquarters for programming.

Please, Kent State, don’t squander this opportunity. We’ve all been waiting so long.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.