We at the Record would like to take this opportunity to applaud the College for its decision to hire a coordinator of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) issues. The position will hopefully fill a void that has existed on campus for some time. The Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL) first addressed the need for an LGBT Coordinator in 1995, but it was not until after several homophobic incidents occurred on campus last year that the position was established. Undoubtedly, the decision to hire a coordinator should be commended. However, the position should have been established sooner. It is unfortunate that it took these homophobic incidents to raise awareness about the need for an LGBT coordinator at the College.
Andrew Singer ’00, a co-coordinator of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered Union (BGLTU), noted in an issue of the Record in March 1999, homophobic harassment is especially prevalent among first-years. Students at Williams often find themselves dealing with serious questions about sexuality for the first time, and whether those questions concern coming out or coming to understand what constitutes homophobic harassment, increased awareness of LGBT issues are exceedingly important.
The Williams community has made many strides in creating a tolerant atmosphere for LGBT students, but there is still much work to be done. As we saw last year, homophobia still exists in some circles on this campus. Matt Sandoval ’99, a former officer of the BGLTU, sensibly pointed out that “Williams is not an incredibly homophobic place, but neither is it the easiest place to be a gay student.” This should be remedied; the College must continue – and if necessary, increase – its efforts to make Williams a safe place for queer and queer-friendly students.
The creation of a new position to deal with queer issues is a step in the right direction. An LGBT Coordinator will ensure a better understanding of LGBT issues and programming on campus, especially with events specifically geared toward first-years, and therefore cannot help but create a more open and accepting campus community.
In addition to creating the position, the College must follow up with substantial funding for the coordinator to accommodate programming for first-years, to bring queer speakers to campus and to foster a greater intellectual pursuit of queer studies. The College must give the LGBT Coordinator the resources and mandate to make a considerable impact on campus. Hopefully, with ample support from the College, the work of the new LGBT Coordinator can produce concrete results in making Williams a better place for its queer community.
In making the decision to create the post, it seems that the College has made an excellent decision in choosing Stephen Collingsworth for LGBT Coordinator. Because it is a new position, he will have to define what his role on campus will be. Collingsworth brings considerable experience building programs from the ground up as coordinator of Kaleidoscope, a queer youth center in Columbus, Ohio, and as the education coordinator at the Columbus Community Center. One of Collingsworth’s roles will be to conduct outreach and education for students and training and consultation for faculty and staff. Collingsworth has a big job ahead of him, but it is a worthy one. We wish him luck.