The Pride Center, SVSU’s LGBT+ resource center, is looking for a graduate student to provide leadership for the fall semester.
Lucy Mercier, former Pride Center director and master of social work program director, said the social work department had been involved with the Pride Center since its 2016 inception. Field education coordinator Kim Johnson and former dean of students Merry Jo Brandimore helped create the Center.
Mercier said the Center was originally funded by an internal grant. After two years of operation, it still did not have a budget. After discussions with Student Affairs, it was decided that the Center could receive funding if it took over operations.
“Student Affairs informed us that moving the Center to their unit would mean that the Center would be funded by their budget,” she said. “It was not really possible for the Pride Center to function without a budget, so we made the difficult decision to give it up.”
Mercier said the social work department has staffed the Center with interns. Mercier acted as director, and Johnson volunteered to supervise the interns. Mercier said the social work department will continue being active in the Center until May 2019, which is when it will be moved to Student Affairs. The social work department will not supply interns past May.
“The new Pride Center does not have the same programs as were offered in the past,” Mercier said, “so the interns would not really being offered the types of opportunities that they need to complete their placements according to the guidelines of their field program. The new Pride Center does not interact with the larger community and does not offer services to faculty and staff.”
Dean of Students Sidney Childs said initial efforts to find a replacement for Mercier have not been successful.
“We were looking for a part-time staff member to coordinate LGBT+ services,” Childs said, “and The Pride Center would have been part of that. They would have maintained a safe space for students who identify as or as allies for LGBT+ students, and they would have also helped educate the campus about the LGBT+ community.”
Childs said the role was too large and offered too few hours for their pool of applicants to be able to successfully complete the job. He said the permanent part-time position would max out around 28 hours a week. Now, Student Affairs is considering a graduate student to fulfill the role.
“We are recalibrating,” he said. “ We will still try to hire a graduate student for the upcoming and will continue looking for someone who can serve an area that is encompassing the LGBT+ programs and services.”
Childs said a group of graduate students are creating a benchmark and literature review of best practices for LGBT+ centers on college campuses. He said Student Affairs will use that report to help guide them in their work at the Pride Center.
“I’m committed to creating a space and having an area that supports the students who identify in the LGBT+ community,” he said. “I have a background in those areas of work. I am familiar with best practices. I understand this is a different community, though, and you work with what you have to get to where you want to be. We want to get to a place where we can provide students and place where they can be safe regardless of how they identify and provide the services to educate folks about the community.”
Childs said having a successful Pride Center will also help SVSU recruit more students.
“I’m also cognizant that many of our perspective students and their families look to see if these services are available,” he said. “If a perspective student says, ‘I’m thinking about Saginaw Valley,’ I want them to be aware that we have a comprehension array of services and that they aren’t just surviving here – they’re thriving here. That’s what we’re doing here.
Childs and Mercier both said the Pride Center has work to do in order to successfully help its staff and students.
“SVSU’s current programming for LGBTQIA students, faculty and staff is well-below standards for universities in Michigan and nationally,” Mercier said. “It would be good for us to evaluate a more comprehensive office or program that serves the campus community and provides links with the region.”
Childs said he apologizes for the slow start the Center has experienced, and he asked that students and faculty voice their comments and concerns to him about the Center.
“If folks are concerned, I am apologizing that it’s a slow start,” he said. “but there’s been a number of constraints that put us there. I’m not making excuses. We know we have work to do and we’re committed to doing the work. We want to hear from students and staff.”