This past semester, Florida Atlantic University launched the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Allies Center, an achievement that rivals the creation of similar centers at universities like Harvard, Princeton and Duke.
Situated on the Boca Raton campus, the new center is intended to offer a safe place for homosexual, bisexual and transgender students to meet, talk and share. Established by the Division of Student Affairs, the center is run by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Juan Izaguirre, director multicultural affairs, said the center was created to "establish a place lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students can call home."
One gay student, who declined to give his name for "fear of persecution and ridicule," said he was thrilled by the creation of the new center.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It's a great thing knowing that my people and I have a place we can go. When you belong to our community, you feel alienated almost everywhere you go, especially on campus. I hope that this center will lead us to a day when I can give you my name for a news story on homosexuality without any fear whatsoever."
News of the new center spread quickly.
"Although we did not work directly with Florida Atlantic University on this particular center, we are so glad to hear about its inception," said Terri Phoenix, publications and communications chair for the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.
"Our goal is to achieve higher education environments in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni have equity in every respect. We are overjoyed that FAU shares our goal and is actively working towards achieving it," Phoenix said.
Lauren Ann Walleser, the new center's graduate assistant, said that gay and transgender students not only deal with the normal stress of college life, but also have to deal with their unique issues.
"In addition to studying," Walleser said, "they're beginning the stages of coming out, or dealing with harassment or bullying on and off campus. The center is a place for fostering celebration of one's identity and can direct students to resources they may not otherwise know how to find."
According to a press release, the center provides professionals and trained volunteers who offer emotional support in addition to Counseling Center resources.