Scholarships support LGBT studies

A set of five scholarships worth up to $10,000 each for students minoring in  LGBTQ Studies are available for applicants. The deadline to apply is Wednesday.

Students who have declared the minor and are also on a pre-med, pre-law or nursing track can apply online. The minor and its corresponding scholarships were created to help students study the issues facing and surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, and also to help enhance the climate for LGBT students on campus, according to Professor Steven Butterman.

Butterman, former director of the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program that the minor is offered through, said that the classes offered in the WGS program rely on the chairs of other departments to support it. Because WGS is an interdisciplinary program within the College of Arts and Sciences, professors from other departments have to be granted a release from teaching a class by the chair of their department in order to teach one in WGS.

“It’s kind of ironic that these programs focused on equality and humans rights are dependent on other programs like that,” he said.

Butterman added that the money available for the scholarships is on a year-to-year basis, so they can’t be sure that the funding for the scholarships will be available in the future.

The scholarships were made possible by a trust left behind by a UM alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous and wanted to provide scholarships for students studying in the pre-med, pre-law or nursing tracks.

The alumni donor who helped earmark some of the funds made available by the trust for these scholarships said that he didn’t feel the university did enough to embrace LGBT life on campus.

Louis Davidson-Schmich, the donor and the director of WGS, pointed to ratings by Campus Pride, an organization that rates university’s LGBT climates, as a sign that improvement is still needed. UM only has an overall rating of three out of five stars.

“When an LGBTQ student sees that, it puts the school off their radar,” the donor said. “Georgetown, a Catholic university, started their own LGBTQ center years ago. I want to see the best and brightest LGBTQ students see UM as a place to grow and be, spiritually and intellectually.”

Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center has two full-time members on its staff and was the first of its kind to be created at a Catholic or Jesuit university in the country in 2008, according to its website. The center hosts events and provides training and education for students, faculty and staff at the university about LGBT issues.

Jacob Rudolph
Jacob Rudolph

Butterman believes creating an LGBT major and making WGS its own department would give UM prestige and credibility among the LGBT community. Still, he thinks the administrative implications would be huge and knows it will take time and effort.

In the meantime, he says students of any gender or sexuality can benefit from taking a class in the program.

Jacob Rudolph, president of UPride and a recipient of the scholarship, agreed that expansion would be positive for the UM community.

“I would really like to see it become a little bit more sovereign, and I’d like to see the university hire full-time faculty who only teach Women’s and Genders Studies classes. Before the LGBTQ program can be expanded, you need more faculty who are able to focus just on those studies,” he said.