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          Editorial: LGBT center a good use of otherwise underutilized space

          Issue date: 3/19/10 Section: Opinion
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          The west side of Thwing Center is currently undergoing renovations which will result in the opening of an LGBT center at Case Western Reserve University. It's not universally accepted that a specific LGBT center is necessary at Case, but we endorse the aims of the center to improve the inclusion of LGBT issues on campus, and we believe it to be an improvement over the current utilization of the space.

          It is hard to imagine that the renovations will result in the area being less utilized than it is currently. While some students occasionally studied in the space in question (essentially the ground floor lounge areas on the west side of Thwing), by and large the area was underutilized and empty. As a more practical matter, the accompanying renovation also brings welcome improvements to the specific layout of Thwing with the inclusion of offices and student-specific areas. Also appreciated is the space's recognition of Ohio-native poet Hart Crane, who resided as a child on East 115th Street.

          The biggest reason that the LGBT center has come to fruition is that an anonymous donor provided a contribution to fund this specific renovation. Despite CWRU's reputation as a relatively progressive school concerning diversity issues, such a space never came into existence until a donor stepped forward to make it happen, despite Case's LGBTA Committee promoting it for several years. The reality is that, like those of most other universities, many of Case's most visible programs, professorships, and edifices are shaped by the intentions of those with the money to back them.

          Many also question whether an LGBT center is necessary or if it will provide a benefit on campus. LGBT people on campus are people like any other, and like many minority groups, face the existence of prejudice ranging from large-scale discrimination to small-scale disrespect. Given that, a center with the intent of eliminating some of these prejudices seems to us a welcome move. Determining whether potential benefits of an LGBT center exist, or what exactly they will be, can't be decided in a brusque manner, especially by those indifferent to LGBT issues. For instance, someone may not frequent the Center for Women, the Career Center, or the Office of Multicultural Affairs, but that doesn't necessarily make the services of these organizations less valued or appreciated by those who do. At the same time, it's premature to say today how effectively the space will be utilized and give any sort of evaluation on its campus impact before it has even opened.

          In regard to that issue, the campus' LGBTA Committee claims essentially that the center is intended more to accommodate the recognition and acceptance of the gay community on campus, and not to provide programming that specifically excludes those who are not members of that community. This is welcome news for those who would still like the space to remain an open area, and it has been stated that anyone on campus will be welcome into the new space upon its conclusion. In undertaking the task of providing a space that recognizes the gay community, or any minority group, care must be taken to avoid further isolating the members of the group. This is why we are pleased to see that the intention of the new LGBT center is to foster inclusion, and we hope that it will effectively utilize the renovated space to achieve this goal.
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