Jody Cofer is now representing two departments on campus. One as LGBT coordinator, which is under Student Affairs and his other is program coordinator of URSA (Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity), listed under Academic Affairs. His first day as coordinator was July 1. He will plan educational programs for LGBT students and their allies.
Cofer said the University is making a lot of progress with diversity.
“I know many people, wondered if Murray State was going to take that next step,” Cofer said. “We are doing what we said we would do and putting programs in place to make the institution inclusive of everybody and we’re having to be innovative and strategic because of limited resources.”
He said the University was trying to meet a need for the growing LGBT and ally population on campus. He hopes to educate the campus and the community about diversity-related issues.
“What I think the priority is to provide the necessary programming and services,” Cofer said. “We don’t have to be so contingent on a structure.”
Last semester a petition was started to bring a LGBT center to campus.
Cofer said the University has done very well with getting the students a LGBT resource office.
“You can call it a center,” Cofer said. “What we’re seeing is there has never been a defined definition of a center. It is providing what a center provides in many ways, but we’ve got to do the best we can with what we have.”
Along with Cofer now coordinating programs, events and guest speakers, Alliance is also continuing to plan and sponsor events. Last year Alliance sponsored around 30-40 events.
As a part of the new role, Cofer now works more closely with other student affairs directors.
“Even by going to student affairs monthly meetings I can better see the perspective from the student affairs side,” Cofer said. “Now that I can see both the student side and the academic side, it benefits the LGBT and ally community that is growing by leaps and bounds.”
Cofer said Murray State is not the first in the state to have a LGBT coordinator but the University is serving as a role model for other schools.
“Colleagues are asking about what ideas we have,” Cofer said. “They want to model off what programs we are starting. As enrollment goes up, logic dictates the LGBT and ally population is going up with it. We have an obligation to our students and providing them with services.”
Shamike Stiles, sophomore from Chicago, Ill., said she believes the LGBT services on campus opens the door to many opportunities for the LGBT and straight ally student group on campus.
“Our students can benefit from the many resources Jody has to offer, Alliance will benefit from the lessened work load now that Jody has committed to this role, and over all the atmosphere of Murray State will hopefully take a new direction, one that is tolerant and accepting,” Stiles said. “One of the biggest goals our we have is to build bridges outside of our community, allow others to see that being an LGBT person doesn’t mean we’re from different planets; we are college students too, and more importantly, we’re people too.”
Story by Meghann Anderson, Assistant News Editor.