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New LGBT Center to Hold Grand Opening

By Ioana Patringenaru | May 1, 2006

The new LGBT Resource Center is located near
Mandeville Center.

In the past few years, UCSD’s LGBT Resource Center went from employing one part-time intern to one graduate and eight undergraduate interns. It went from 300 square feet to 960 square feet of space near the Gilman parking structure. Now, the center is taking a new leap, to a new 2700-square-foot building and a prominent location near Mandeville Center. This new building is the largest LGBT resource center on any public American college campus, officials said.

“I think this reflects UCSD’s commitment to issues around gender identity and sexual orientation and community building,” said LGBT Resource Center Director Shaun Travers.

The center has been opened for a few weeks but a Grand Opening ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The event will feature Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, current students and representatives of the San Diego LGBT community. A barbecue, a bonfire and a dance will follow in the afternoon and evening. Visitors also will be able to tour the facility.

The project, including the LGBT Resource Center and some multi-purpose meeting rooms, cost $1.74 million, according to the Capital Planning department. The money came from campus discretionary funds and from Student Affairs reserve funds. The result is a handsome building, clad in wood and decorated with subdued colors.

The center already has reaped benefits from its new location, Travers said. The number of people stopping by every week has gone up by about 100, to 250 visitors.

The center’s old location put the LGBT community on the fringes of campus, said Kyle Samia, a sophomore at Thurgood Marshall College. The new location makes it more visible and helps create a positive climate on campus, he said.

“It definitely adds to my sense of pride,” Samia said.

Samia said he likes to drop by the center between classes, for one or two hours every day. There are many places to hang out on campus, but here, he feels like he belongs, he said. By contrast, he said he feels marginalized at the Price Center. Over the past two years, people at the LGBT Resource Center have helped him embrace his identity, he said. He has been able to get a wide range of opinions, from people with doctorates, to staff members, to students, he said.

Samia sat under a rainbow-colored flag near the center’s entrance, in an area lined with couches and armchairs that is used for discussion and where the smell of new hasn’t quite faded yet. On a nearby couch, Tenshi Hikari, a third-year student, was checking e-mail on a white Apple iBook. He said he comes to the center four days a week, to study, hold meetings, relax, make lunch and even sleep.

At the center, “you feel connected, you feel at home, you feel safe,” he said.

When he was in high school, Hikari said he constantly felt pressure to fit into a mold. At UCSD, he realized he could shape his own experiences without constraints. But as a native Chinese speaker, he struggled to put it all into words. People at the center helped him find the vocabulary he needed, he said.

The center’s mission is to provide an open, diverse and public place for all members of the university community to discuss issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, Travers said.

The new center has several facilities that will make this easier, Travers said. He added he is particularly proud of a $32,000 wireless computer lab made possible by a grant from the David Bohnett Foundation. It is made up of 10 wireless laptops that can be checked out and used throughout the center. The laptops also can be set up in the center’s conference room for computer training sessions.

“It’s a wonderful service,” Travers said.

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