Commission discusses LGBT Center

Chris Wilcox
Staff writer

The President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion met Friday, Jan. 27 to prioritize the implementation steps regarding the Diversity Plan, which includes whether or not to recommend the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) ?Center to President Randy Dunn.

According to the new Murray State University Diversity Plan, the goal is to strengthen the efforts to promote diversity as an essential element in its pursuit for greater excellence. The commission was charged with developing and continually monitoring implementations of the plan and its initiatives.

Sonya Baker, assistant dean and professor of humanities and fine arts, is chair of the commission, which is also composed of several faculty and staff members

“Chair Baker is leading the commission through a process to work through the plan’s action steps and develop some priority recommendations,” Jody Cofer, program specialist for Undergradaute Research and Scholarly Activity and member of the commission, said. “These recommendations then get submitted to President Dunn for consideration. You have to remember the plan spans multiple years and we have to approach it in pieces.”

The Diversity Plan has four large chunks to be assessed annually, including student body diversity, student success, workforce diversity and campus climate. Each of these then has sub-categories, which must be addressed and prioritized by the commission.

Before the commission was formed, a group known as the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Diversity advised President Dunn on matters of diversity and inclusion. The task force was revamped, and with the creation of the President’s commissions and came the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.

The commission will meet today to finalize priority recommendations, including the possible proposal of a long-discussed LGBT center.

Jeff Osborne, associate professor of English and philosophy, turned in 121 faculty and staff signatures to Provost Bonnie Higginson in support of the center in November.

Alliance, an organization for LGBT and straight allied students, then started circulating its own petition. William Heath, senior from Mayfield, Ky., and president of Alliance, said they turned in 278 student signatures in request of an LGBT center.

Kyle Shupe, junior from Farmington, Ky., spoke at the commission meeting last Friday to appeal to the commission at the student level.

Osborne said LGBT people in the United States and abroad are frequent targets for discrimination, bigotry and violence.

“A resource center would serve the vital role of educating our community and providing referral services for this traditionally underserved segment of the population,” he said. “It would also provide a physical space for LGBT and allies to come together for learning, community-building, and outreach.”

Cofer said an LGBT center is not specifically mentioned in the plan, but there is a component. The campus climate section of the document states Murray State will advance education efforts involving sexual orientation and gender identity/expression through programming and campus-based services. While there is no specific requirement for a center, there is allowance for one.