New Vandy office embraces needs of campus' GLBTQI

Vanderbilt will soon host the grand opening of a new office with a long name dedicated to serving and advancing the GLBT community.

The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersexed Life (LGBTQI), led by Director Nora Spencer, will host an opening event on Vanderbilt’s campus during Homecoming festivities on Oct. 24.

K.C. Potter, the original facilitator of the Lambda Association, plans to attend the event.

The new office is located in the K.C. Potter Center, and replaces Vanderbilt’s part-time GLBT Resource Office.

“The previous office was great, but it was part time,” Spencer said. “This is building on that office and seeking out programs to improve quality of life here for GLBTQI students and employees.”

Spencer has had a hand in starting the new office from the ground up, including handling snags in phone installation and other problems that arise when working it a historic building.

The office offers a TV room, a lounge area, a full dining room and a kitchen.

Spencer, who served as assistant director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs and director of LGBT Affairs at the University of Florida, said she is able to think of LGBTQI issues a broad, global way.
“I was there (at UF) for more than two years and learned how to navigate some of the more difficult situations that may come up with gender and sexuality,” Spencer said.

Implementation of the new office comes on the heels of a report published by the university last year.  In Sept. 2007, Mark Bandas, associate provost and dean of students, created the LGBTQI Student Issues Committee to assess the cultural climate of Vanderbilt.  

The committee's report showed that some students and faculty members found "that the climate at Vanderbilt felt more homophobic than they had expected at an institution of this ranking."

David Boyd, who was co-chair of the committee and is associate director of the Vanderbilt's Center for Medicine, Health and Society, said Spencer has the qualitites needed to fufill that need.

“I am thrilled that she (Spencer) has joined the Vanderbilt community,” Boyd said. “Her experience, insight, enthusiasm and affability will be of great benefit to this university and to our mission of enhancing the experience of LGBTQI students and their allies on campus.”

The office opened in August and has already began to benefit some students. Klint Peebles, president of Vanderbilt’s Lambda Association, which has about 60 active members, said the center has already lessened the amount of advocacy for which some students previously felt a responsibilty.

“In the past, Lambda has attempted to support and address the needs of the entire LGBTQI community through its programming,” Peebles said. “With the advent of a new, expanded office, Lambda will no longer feel that it carries the burden of LGBTQI advocacy on all levels – including institutional commitment and policy revisions.”

Spencer said she is working to identify things that are already being done for GLBTQI people on campus so she then can identify what needs to be done.

“That way I’ll be able to see opportunities for growth to improve partner benefits or initiate a new program to meet students’ needs,” Spencer said.

Peebles said implementation of the new office speaks volumes about the university’s dedication to the GLBTQI community.

“A full-time Office of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt is a monumental expression of Vanderbilt’s support of an ever-growing community on its campus,” Peebles said.  “The office will contribute to the renewed expression of LGBTQI values both within the student body and within the faculty and staff and will lend to the continued development of each student’s personal identity within the LGBTQI community."

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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