By Mary Karen Powers And Kristi Loehmeier
We read with interest the Nov. 30 editorial in the Louisville Cardinal by guest columnist Ben Foster. In his editorial, Foster raised the question: “Why not combine the Women’s and LGBT Centers and allot funds for a CV (Conservative Values) Support Center?” This question seems to suggest that the present centers constitute an inappropriate duplication of services, and that neither responds to needs of conservative members of the campus community. The editorial further suggests that the Women’s Center’s Web site contains information that “conservatives might find unsupportive.” As persons responsible for oversight of the two entities in question, we wish to address Foster’s assertions directly.
The mission of the University of Louisville Women’s Center is to “promote women’s equality, increase women’s self-reliance, and highlight women’s contributions to all cultures and societies.” Thus, for 12 years now the Center has advocated policies and practices which affect the well-being of women at the University of Louisville. Among these are gender equity (equal pay for equal work), development and implementation of a university-wide sexual harassment policy, and development of on-campus childcare facilities which would be available to and affordable for students, faculty and staff. The Center sponsors an annual voter registration drive celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and holds an award luncheon on the birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Center has also created programs on women’s health, including the PEACC Program which sponsors VAW prevention programs and provides direct services for victims of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence.
Finally, the Women’s Center’s Web site contains links to U of L entities such as the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Presidentís Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality. This site also contains links to scholarships which may be useful for women students and announcements of upcoming programs related to women’s issues within the university and civic community. Conservative and liberal members of the U of L community – both women and men – are welcome to participate in the Women’s Center’s programs and services, as are LGBT and heterosexual members of the U of L community.
The mission of the U of L Center for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)Services, which was established in 2004, is to “provide support and advocacy for LGBT students, staff and faculty at U of L … [to] provide education and awareness on LGBT issues to the wider U of L community, to address heterosexism and homophobia, and [to] create a safe campus climate for LGBT students, staff and faculty and their allies.” At present, the primary outreach of the Center is the Safe Zone Project, whose purpose is to equip heterosexuals with the “skills, resources, [and] information to become better advocates for the LGBT student population.” Implementing the Safe Zone Project, therefore, requires that staff of the Center have the specialized expertise to be a supportive presence for LGBT people, as well as to provide heterosexual allies with training about the issues which affect the university’s LGBT population.
Thus the Women’s Center and the Center for LGBT Services are distinct from one another precisely because the missions of the two Centers are distinct, and therefore the expertise required of staff in the two centers is also distinct. However, both heterosexual and LGBT members of the U of L community are specifically invited to participate in the Safe Zone Project, and both liberal and conservative members of the U of L community are welcome to participate well.
In conclusion, though our Centers are distinct from one another in mission and staffing patterns, we nevertheless consider ourselves to be allies in working toward the Diversity Vision Statement of the University of Louisville. Specifically, we want to be allies in building “an exemplary educational community that offers a nurturing and challenging intellectual climate, a respect for the spectrum of human diversity, and a genuine understanding of the many differences including race, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic status, national origin, sexual orientation, disability and religion that enrich a vibrant metropolitan research university.”
Mary Karen Powers, M.Div is director of the U of L Women’s Center. Kristi Loehmeier, MSW is director of the U of L Center for LGBT Services.E-mail them at: