Our Word: Don’t Shut The Closet Door

By Gus Bode

“I’m afraid our best days are behind us.”

These are Paulette Curkin’s words exactly, sent to the DAILY EGYPTIAN earlier this week in response to the latest developments regarding the supposed mistreatment or overlooking of GLBT students at SIUC. Curkin, the co-coordinator of Student Development at SIUC and adviser to the Saluki Rainbow Network, has been described as always positive about the university’s gay community – even after the chancellor’s comments in 2004 had many people feeling shocked and angry.

But now, it’s “I’m afraid our best days are behind us.”

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What has brought the de facto head of the university’s GLBT community to this point?

You can probably start with the fact that she’s the de facto head of this university’s GLBT community, with little to no actual support from outside her closest circle. In the past week, we’ve seen the administration shuffle its feet once more when it comes to appealing to the concerns of an underrepresented part of the student body.

A year after a committee report was submitted to Provost John Dunn, one calling for a more extensive GLBT curriculum and a resource center dedicated to diversity, there has been little progress made with the recommendations given by the committee. Dunn himself stated that the deliberations “probably have been slower to materialize than some would like.” One year after the report’s filing and two years after the formation of the committee, all the GLBT community has received is a hotline to report bias incidents to the Department of Personal Safety. Yes, it’s safe to say that is slow movement.

There needs to be some quicker movement done with the more substantial recommendations given by the GLBT committee, starting with the development of this resource center, which is expected to act as a central point for activity, research and outreach for GLBT students.

The administration didn’t look any better this week by offering only $8,000 for the first year of operation for the center. The funding choice was made through the Office of Associate Chancellor for Diversity Seymour Bryson. He said it was fair, but it looks more like a lowball tactic to set the center up for failure.

A proposal for this resource center features an estimated budget that approaches $40,000. Those behind the center are asking for a first year funding of $20,000. This is not an unreasonable number, but even if it borders on unreasonable, some sacrifice could be made.

Let’s say they go ahead with that $8,000 budget and the center fails within its first year, then the administration will be in every position to cut funding altogether to projects under the umbrella of the GLBT committee. No advances will be made for these students here, and whether or not you recognize it, such an outcome will hurt SIUC as a whole.

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The type of modern-day, diverse student body that our administration claims to yearn for depends on self-sustaining minority communities such as the GLBT. Without any support for these recommendations that development won’t happen. Curkin and others behind her know things like a center and more curriculum cost money, but they can’t even get involved with exploits that do nothing less than help them and the university at the same time.

Another key recommendation – membership with the National Consortium of Directors of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resources in Higher Education – has been overlooked.

As it is hard to not tie every move this university makes into Southern at 150, this question has to be asked. We’re trying to be one of the top 75 public research universities in the nation, yet we can’t get involved with something to which more than 100 universities provide multicultural centers as well as resources and education needed for GLBT students?

We’re coming awfully close to overlooking a community out of SIUC.

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