By Tachieka M. Williams
When it comes to addressing the needs and concerns of the LGBT community, Youngstown State University may be falling behind.
Schools such as Kent State University, Ohio University and Bowling Green State University have dedicated institutionalized LGBT centers for the recognition and support of the LGBT community. The development of such a center has not yet occurred at YSU.
Dedicated LGBT centers often offer students a variety of different services and support, including faculty support, student advocacy, alumni relations and public relations with the greater community, especially in times of crisis. Also a dedicated center could offer psychological counseling, specifically for individuals struggling with their sexual and gender identities.
Currently YSU has a Center for Student Diversity to cater to all different groups facing adversities. William Blake, the center’s director, feels this isn’t enough.
“We need to really diversify ourselves, because we call ourselves being very much connected to the community here in Youngstown and in the United States and we have to be connected with them by making available specified services to cater to the different groups,” Blake said.
Recently, YSU has experienced financial hardship. Both Carrie Anderson, assistant director of student activities, and Sylvia Imler, interim director of diversity and multicultural affairs, feel it is important to have an institutionalized LGBT center amongst other centers but said there just isn’t any money to fund such institutions.
Blake disagreed, indicating that he feels it is necessary to serve the students and its many diversified groups, regardless of finances.
“If they thought it was important and they value diversity, the university would find a way to get funds to make different diversity services available, serving our students should be a priority regardless,” Blake said.
YSUnity is YSU’s LGBTQIA resource. YSUnity is a student run organization overseen by staff advisers with an office located in Kilcawley. YSUnity plays a very active roll in making the LGBT community noticed on campus, but Blake said they could be doing more.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Activism is very important in terms of helping people to understand the need to address the issues of that population of students,” Blake said. “If our students were a little more vocal, visible and continued to press the issue of the need for a center then that might be something that the university might give more attention to.”
Tim Bortner, YSUnity’s student president, feels that the organization is doing what it can to make students, staff and the community aware of the LGBT community on campus.
“YSUnity can push for stuff like that [LGBT center] but they have the final decision, and we have to wait to see what happens,” Bortner said.
YSUnity has the full support of the Student Activities Center as well as the Student Diversity Center. Bortner expressed appreciation for these campus centers, especially due to the fact that he doesn’t see an institutionalized center being placed on campus any time soon.
“I think its bad that we don’t have a resource center, and I don’t think we will see one in the next three to five years, but we have a lot of other resources on campus that we can use and support us a lot,” Bortner said.