CLGBTE anniversary marks 25 years of progress

April 18, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity at Penn State. Created to address the needs of the LGBTQ community on campus, the commission has done much to improve lives over the last 25 years.

“The idea is to celebrate the last 25 years of progress, not only in the University but in the community,” said chair Amy Dupain Vashaw. “It’s very important, because when you’re fighting for equal rights and access, it’s hard to remember to celebrate what you’ve achieved.”

The commission’s initiatives are far reaching, from the creation of the Sexuality and Gender Studies minor to the LGBTQA Resource Center.

Allison Subasic, director of the resource center, said that the commission has made life quite a bit easier at Penn State.

“Without the basic policies the CLGBTE has helped to put into place and the educational programs they have done, we would not be where we are today,” Subasic said.

These policies center on outreach, advocacy and education, and Subasic’s work is intertwined with that of the commission, she said. In regard to policy and the changes that she and the members of the commission can make, it is a give and take, and they work together to “make Penn State one of the best campuses for the LGBTQA community.”

Another aspect of education is the Sexuality and Gender Studies Minor, which was approved in 2009. Christopher Reed is one of the people in charge of the minor, and he called it a “huge step for Penn State in recognizing the significance of teaching and learning in the areas of sexual and gender identity.”

The person running the minor is automatically included in the commission, and consults with the curriculum committee.

“We try to figure out how to make the minor’s offerings available to more students, especially those on campuses other than University Park,” Reed said. “This is a real challenge for smaller campuses, and exactly the kind of issue the commission can intervene in, because meeting this challenge involves talking to a lot of different constituencies, folks on different campuses, in different colleges, etc.”

Reed said that the 25th anniversary was a good opportunity to step back and look at the progress that they had made.

“Sometimes the pace of change is slow and frustrating, so it’s energizing to have an opportunity to see that we really do have some accomplishments to be proud of and some momentum to move forward,” he said.

A portion of this momentum can be attributed to Old Main, as Vashaw praised President Eric Barron and the administration’s relationship with the commission.

“Every year, Dr. Barron asks how he can help us, and senior administrators are so accessible," Vashaw said. "That’s how stuff gets done.”

“Stuff” this year includes passing a vendor equity policy, requiring all those who do business with the University to employ fair and equal hiring practices, and working toward transgender restroom access. CLGBTE was also involved in the creation of Barron’s new Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity.

Looking ahead, Vashaw said everyone’s excited for the celebration gala, which is planned for April 21, and currently has around 150 guests. There will be remarks from Barron, presentations of the Rainbow Awards for LGBT service, and taped video greetings from the University community. Additionally, there is an academic symposium that will be held the next day to showcase academic work being done around LGBT topics.

“It was hard to choose awardees,” Vashaw said. “Everyone nominated for the Rainbow Awards is fantastic, and it’s exciting to take this year to fully celebrate ourselves and our achievements.”

Last Updated May 10, 2016