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January 29, 2004

GBLT committee seeks presenters for lecture series

The Diversity Council’s Gay Bisexual Lesbian and Transgendered (GBLT) Advisory Committee is looking for campus input as it works to realize some of the goals set forth when it was created two years ago.

Committee members are planning a speakers series that they hope can begin in spring, and right now they’re looking for a few good people to be presenters. Co-chairs Shirley Yee and Sheryl Schwartz say they’re interested in faculty or graduate students who are doing research on GBLT issues, but they also would like to invite less conventional speakers — poets, for example, or community activists.

The mandate of the committee — which was created at the recommendation of the GBLT Task Force appointed by the president in 1999 — is to raise the visibility of GBLT issues on campus, and sponsoring speakers series is one of the ways committee members hope to do that.

But the co-chairs emphasize that GBLT issues often intertwine with those of other groups. “The issues don’t exist in a vacuum,” Schwartz said. “One of the speakers we hope to bring, for example, would be talking about GBLT matters in the context of the American Indian community.”

In addition to inviting local speakers, Schwartz and Yee want to bring in at least one speaker a year who is a nationally or internationally known scholar, and they also are making recommendations for speakers to the committees planning other major lecture series on campus, such as the Walker Ames and the Danz.

Sponsoring speakers isn’t the only way the council plans to carry out its mandate. Another recommendation of the task force was to create a GBLT resource center similar to the ones some of the UW’s peer institutions have.

“Leaders in Minority Affairs, Equal Opportunity and Student Affairs have pulled together funding to create the center,” Schwartz said. “It’s in the organizational stage right now. A graduate student is being hired to staff it.”

The resource center will eventually be housed in Schmitz Hall, but for now the graduate student will have a desk in the HUB.

“It will be a place where people can find out about on and off campus resources to support them either in living as a GBLT person or in investigating courses,” Schwartz said.

Although Schwartz and Yee anticipate that the center will mostly be used by students and will work closely with ASUW’s GBLT Commission, Yee said it could be of interest to faculty too.

“I can envision newly recruited faculty members who are interested in GBLT issues going to the resource center to find out what other courses are available,” she said. “If you’re a faculty member you can get so channeled into your own department, that you might not know what else is out of there. It would be a good resource to find out where your courses fit in with other people’s.”

Coursework in GBLT issues is in fact another concern of the committee.

“We’re interested in the development of GBLT curriculum, especially at the undergraduate level,” Yee said. “Right now the University has a short list of GBLT courses. One of our ideas is to develop a group of courses that would be a minor or an area of concentration. We’d like to consult scholars from outside the UW who have already developed such courses.”

Although some might say that the UW — located in liberal Seattle — doesn’t need to pay so much attention to GBLT issues, Yee and Schwartz say things may not always be what they seem.

“The campus is unwelcoming in surprising ways to GBLT students, especially those just coming out,” Schwartz said. But she’s pleased at the work the committee is doing. “We’ve already made good progress in a short time. The idea of raising visibility is key. We want to move beyond tolerance to acceptance.”

Anyone with ideas for the speakers series or questions about the work of the committee can contact Yee, a Women Studies professor, at sjyee@u.washington.edu or Schwartz, research manager in the Department of Health Services’ Health Promotion Research Center, at sheryls@u.washington.edu.