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MOMENTUM
A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - October 2021

By Mary Jane Chew

Campus celebrates LGBTQ Center’s 10 years at Purdue

Heading into its 10th year, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Center at Purdue is celebrating with a year of activities and pride.

Rankings explain part of that pride. On the Campus Pride Index, Purdue earns 5 out of 5 stars for being LGBTQ-friendly. BestColleges and Campus Pride, which survey 395 colleges, this year ranked Purdue #1 in Indiana and 16th among the nation’s top colleges for LGBTQ+ students.

Lowell Kane, the center’s inaugural director, said the rankings are based several factors, which include:

  • Purdue was ahead of the curve even before the center was established, thanks to committed senior faculty, staff and students who drafted a white paper for benchmarking best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Those plans set the university’s course, led to the creation of the center and became a model for programs at other universities.
  • Academic life. Purdue earned extra points for its LGBTQ minor degree through the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. The center offers internships and award-winning study abroad opportunities.
  • Student life, safety, health and well-being. The index considers how students experience the campus and what kinds of support programs and student groups are available. This is where partnerships with other offices on campus play a strong role, Kane said.
  • Residential life: In addition to providing safe environments, Purdue offers a gender-inclusive living community at Hillenbrand Hall. It’s open to anyone who has a respect and understanding of gender identity and gender expression.

By the numbers

In a non-pandemic year, the data show about 8,000 visits to the center involving 1,000 unique students. Some come for academic reasons. Some need direction to campus resources. Others come to build community and cultivate a sense of belonging. Some have experienced a crisis and need help.  One other way to witness the center’s reach is through its Lavender Graduation celebration. For the first one hosted by the center, six students participated. Last May, it was 96.

How to get involved

To build understanding, the center has reached thousands with safe zone workshops, trans inclusion training and a Speakers Bureau. LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff participating in the bureau share their own experiences on request in a panel format for a variety of audiences, from student groups to academic units, or just for individuals who want to learn more. What began as in-person sessions moved online during the pandemic and likely will become hybrids post-pandemic, Kane said.  “Answering questions openly and honestly, breaks down stereotypes and promotes dialogue around challenging ideas,” Kane said.

Celebration

In honor of its 10th year in operation, the center has teamed with Purdue Archives to create an interactive guided walking tour of the history of the LGBTQ community on campus. That history begins with the story of the first identifiably queer faculty member, a professor of German, who was on campus in the 1890s. It makes a stop in the 1970s—50 years ago—to highlight the first LGBTQ student groups at Purdue. The tour culminates with renderings of the new home planned for the center in the Hicks Undergraduate Library, set to open spring semester 2023. 

The celebration, which will span a year, will culminate next summer with the 10th anniversary of the center’s opening, July 16, 2012.  “It’s a big milestone, not just at Purdue, but since we are a leader in this field, it’s a milestone for all campus LGBTQ centers at higher education institutions,” Kane said.