The College has hired Justin Adkins to serve as the interim Queer Life Coordinator (QLC) within the umbrella of the Multicultural Center (MCC), after a search that began in spring 2007. Adkins’ primary responsibility, in addition to the broader aim of building community across campus constituencies, is collaborating with organizations such as the Dively Committee, the Queer Student Union (Eph Rainbow Alliance) and the LGBT Advisory on community programming, advising and support.
“Everyone involved in the search was positive about the appointment,” said Gail Bouknight-Davis, MCC director. “People commented on Adkins’ passion, energy and commitment to the needs of young queer people, as well as his approachability.”
Adkins, who is also a locally based Web site developer, replaces Kareem Khubchandani, who was QLC from Feb. 2006 until last spring. While the interim position Adkins now occupies was envisioned as one that spanned the MCC and the Office of Community Engagement and combined the roles of the Queer Life and Community Engagement Coordinator, Adkins will only be working half-time in the former role.
Adkins is excited about his appointment. “I hope that in my time here at Williams we can see some continued progress in making Williams not just an inclusive and accepting campus but a campus that embraces people in all their identities,” he said, adding that he would like to see continued movement in uniting the College’s queer population with that of the greater Williamstown community.
He cited the Queer Town Meeting pioneered by Khubchandani last year as “a wonderful move in the right direction,” and expressed the hope that his involvement with many local businesses and non-profits as a self-proclaimed “Web geek” would continue this trend of reaching out.
Meanwhile, Community Engagement hopes to hire “a temporary worker on a very part-time, hourly basis” to cover some basic administrative functions “within this week,” according to Rick Spalding, chaplain to the College and coordinator of community service.
Spalding added that he is “so pleased” with Adkins’ appointment. “It’s exciting to see how the community of queer students, faculty and staff has already taken Justin to heart,” he said. Adkins has already contributed input for Queer Bash, which will be held on Oct. 10.
This appointment is a welcome milestone in an ongoing struggle to provide optimal administrative support for the College’s queer community. Khubchandani had initially intended to step down as QLC and MCC assistant director in May 2007, but continued to serve in those roles for 2007-08 academic year as the College was unable to find a candidate who had both sufficient experience and interest in LGBTQ affairs.
At the beginning of this semester, former Campus Life Coordinator Arif Smith took on the MCC assistant directorship. However, the QLC designation remained open: neither a search launched in April for a Residential Life Coordinator with a corollary role as QLC, nor the subsequent one began in July for the Queer Life and Community Engagement Coordinator, yielded any appointments.
“When Kareem realized he was moving on he mentioned that I should apply for the position,” said Adkins, a transgendered man who has been active in queer community organizing since 2002. Although the job “seemed like a great fit,” he only thought about it briefly as he was content with his current career, but reconsidered upon discovering that the position was still vacant a week and a half into the semester. “The students at Williams need some one to advocate for them and to support them no matter what their identity or expression of that identity is,” he said.
Throughout the year, students and faculty will be reviewing the interim role in hopes of clearly defining a permanent one. Some believe that serious reevaluation is in order. “The problems with the process had little to do with the people on the search committee,” said Raff Donelson ’09, a member of the search committee. “The problem is the hybridization. We need a full-time QLC whose primary function is being a QLC.”
Donelson called the College “irresponsible” in its search for a “miracle hybrid candidate.”
Adkins, who holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Marlboro College in Vermont, was a key organizer in the inaugural New England Transgender Pride March and Rally this summer in Northampton, Mass. He is also on the board of Bennington Pride and helped form the Queer Community Project in Brattleboro, Vt.
“I’m very happy that Justin was appointed,” Donelson said. “He’s young, energetic, socially astute and knowledgeable about trans and gender-related issues, which make him an excellent candidate for dealing with the complex issues that the queer community faces at Williams.”