For 15 years, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s LGBTQA+ Center has been a gathering place for LGBTQA+ students and allies, where they’ve found a place to belong and feel safe in their identities.
To mark the anniversary, the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identities, in partnership with the Nebraska Alumni Association, is hosting a celebration from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in the Wick Alumni Center, 1520 R Street. The open house-style celebration will include light refreshments and a short program, beginning at 5 p.m. RSVPs are encouraged, but not required.
Establishing the center took years and the commitment of numerous people. In October of 1992, Pat Tetreault joined the university as sexuality education coordinator in the University Health Center. In this role, and with the campus’ Committee on GLBT Concerns, Tetreault advocated for improved programming, services, equitable access and resources, and increased visibility for the LGBTQA+ community on campus.
Following many steps over more than a decade, and with the voices of various campus groups, including the recognized student organization now known as Spectrum UNL, the center opened its doors in the 2007 fall semester, following the establishment of a full-time director position, which was filled by Tetreault, who holds the position today.
“Its impact is that it’s a visible commitment on the part of the institution, recognizing that there are LGBTQA+ students on campus who were often invisible and underserved,” Tetreault, director of the both the LGBTQA+ Center and the Women’s Center, said. “Having a physical space is important, but also somewhere to go and find resources and programming, and find a place where you connect and feel like you belong.”
Since opening in Nebraska Union room 342, the center’s trajectory has been one of growth and continuing advocacy and programming.
In 2009, the center added the Lavender Graduation, a special ceremony for LGBTQA+ students and allies with awards and recognition, including the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the GLBT Community, and the Louis Crompton Scholarship.
The center quickly grew out of its one-room space, and moved to a three-room suite in room 345 in 2010. Two years later, the center expanded again. The larger center included an office, a library and gathering space in room 346, where the center is still located.
The year 2019 brought yet more changes. The LGBTQA+ Center underwent a small renovation. The remodel added an office — needed for the addition of an assistant director, JD McCown — and opened up and increased the space, which includes a gathering area and library. That year, the center also opened the Lavender Closet, which aims to provide free, gently used clothing to all university students, with discreet access to identity-affirming clothing and accessories. The closet proved popular, and now staff and volunteers have partnered with campus entities to have pop-up closets for students.
Prism, a learning community for LGBTQA+ students and allies, was also recently introduced. In 2020, the Committee on GLBT Concerns became the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identities, which continues to advocate for LGBTQA+ students, faculty and staff.
And throughout the center’s history, staff have offered trainings, events, programming and other services to help serve and educate the campus community.
Tetreault said the center has had a positive impact on campus for all members of the campus community and especially for LGBTQA+ students. Survey data from 2002, 2009, and 2017 show consistent improvement in the campus climate.
In the coming year, Tetreault said the center will expand its footprint again, moving the director’s office to room 345 and moving the Lavender Closet inside the center.
To learn more about the center, its programming, organizations or events, check the LGBTQA+ Center’s website.