The student organization SpectrUM provides students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer a safe space.
Faculty and staff are also creating a similar space for themselves after a meeting Wednesday at the Rat. They met for the inaugural meeting of the LGBTQ Faculty Staff Network, which offers a network for faculty and staff members to interact with each other in a comfortable environment.
Christian Garcia, executive director at the Toppel Career Center, and Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, are the coordinators of the network.
“It’s the one community that doesn’t have a network base to connect with, whether it’s social, advocacy, or wherever we want to see this group go,” Wiemer said.
Because the group is brand new, it has no specific aim just yet, but members of the group are hopeful of what it could evolve into. The meeting allowed members to discuss what direction the network will take.
“One of the things I envision is being able to be a resource for students, should they need support or guidance,” Garcia said. “Students who identify with that community now have people to go to for support or guidance or to seek a mentor.”
Traci Ardren, chair of the department of anthropology, attended the meeting and wants to help create a community that embraces LGBTQ faculty and staff.
“I want to help contribute to UM becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus,” said Ardren, who has been with the university for 12 years.
For others like Matt Barnes, assistant director for Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement, having others to talk to, with whom he shares an identity, is meaningful.
“When I came here and heard they were starting the group up, I thought it would be helpful for me to network and meet other people,” said Barnes, who has been working for the university since June. “As a new staff member, it’s an exciting time to be working here when a group like that is just being formed.”
The LGBTQ Faculty Staff Network discussed the possibility of becoming an advocacy group for the community, providing opportunities for social gatherings and mentoring for students. The network has not decided on any of these plans, but is positive that the network will have a significant impact on the UM community.
“I also think for me personally its important to do whatever we can to help LGBTQ students around campus to feel welcome, safe and have appropriate mentorship. That’s the reason I’m involved,” Ardren said.
A LGBTQ faculty and staff network is not an unusual development in other universities. Cornell University, Harvard University, Loyola Marymount University and Grand Valley State University have a version of the network at UM.
For more information on the LGBTQ network, email Garcia or Wiemer at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.