Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

LGBTQ Center Finds Leadership

As painters work to put the finishing touches on the newly created LGBTQ Resource Center, the center’s first director, Sivagami Subbaraman, has been working to make a presence for the center as students arrive back to campus.

Subbaraman arrived at Georgetown four weeks ago to begin preparing the center, located adjacent to the Women’s Center on the third floor of the Leavey Center.

GU Pride began pushing for the resource center last fall after two alleged hate crimes against Georgetown students, kicking off a university-wide movement led by GU Pride for increased inclusion of and education about the LGBTQ community on campus.

In October, University President John J. DeGioia approved several of GU Pride’s requests, including the formation of three working groups that would address reporting, resources and education. Four months later, DeGioia announced his approval and backing of a proposal created by the working group on resources for an LGBTQ resource center.

After DeGioia’s announcement, a committee began a nationwide search for the LGBTQ director. Subbaraman said she was invited to two interviews on campus, and, in May, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson issued a letter to the university community naming Subbaraman as the center’s first director.

“I really hope the center will be a space for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff as well as non-LGBTQ people,” Subbaraman said of her vision for the center.

Subbaraman, originally from India, came to the United States almost 26 years ago to complete her education, attending graduate school at the University of Illinois, where she studied English and Women’s Studies. Most recently, Subbaraman served as associate director of the University of Maryland’s Office of LGBT Equity.

Subbaraman said she has a broader vision for the center that extends beyond her experience at the University of Maryland.

“I learned a lot from [Maryland],” she said. “But I think what I will bring to this job is where LGBT issues fit into general diversity.”

Subbaraman said that one of her visions for the center is to help LGBTQ issues to be seen as part of a larger set of diversity issues, rather than in its own category.

“I don’t want to be put back into the closet,” she said.

Subbaraman said she plans to hire a full-time program coordinator by the end of the fall, as well as possibly a few student employees.

Subbaraman said at this early point, she is not sure what other concrete goals she has for the center and that she will first need to start a discussion with faculty, administrators and students.

“I need to build on that momentum and keep up that energy,” she said of the work done by students and faculty last year.

Subbaraman said that working at Georgetown, which has such a strong Jesuit identity, will bring a “different set of challenges” than those that came with working at the University of Maryland, a school without a religious affiliation. She added, though, that she attended Catholic school in India, which made her “very comfortable in the Catholic education environment.”

“I feel the university is committed to making this succeed,” she said. “The center exists. That says something.”

Jack Harrison (SFS ’09), co-chair of GU Pride, also said he hopes to work closely with the new director in developing programming for the year.

While she said she could not comment on GU Pride’s demonstrations last year, she did say that she hopes to work with the group to look at new ways to lead the community.

“In general the model that prevails is activism,” she said. “We need to create other forms of leadership that will take us from the activist mold.”

Harrison said GU Pride is looking to launch efforts this year to make the campus more “trans-friendly” by working to provide bathrooms and better housing options for transgender individuals.

In addition, he said he believes it is important to bring more diversity to the organization, particularly in bringing a greater variety of political views to the group.

Harrison said Subbaraman’s work as the first director of the center will help to catalyze these efforts.

“Having a person who can advocate for our issues is a big achievement,” he said.

He said Subbaraman has already emerged as a leader over the past week in training and giving presentations to members of various groups such as Young Leaders in Education about Diversity, New Student Orientation and Residence Life.

“I think that as people become slightly more sensitized, that will start to have a big effect on how LGBTQ people are treated on campus,” Harrison said.

Subbaraman said she will be holding an open house on Tuesday afternoon and plans to make herself visible among students and parents throughout move-in weekend.

Looking on as workers finish construction of a large window next to the entrance to the center, Subbaraman said she hopes to continue the hard work of students and faculty in order to raise awareness for the LGBTQ community at Georgetown.

“The message it sends is `we are open,'” she said of the new window. “We are open. We have nothing to hide.”

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