Leading activist helps LGBTQ Resource Center celebrate success

Photo of Urvashi Vaid by Jurek Wajdowicz
Photo of Urvashi Vaid by Jurek Wajdowicz

Connecticut College’s will celebrate supporters — and be celebrated — at an event on Monday, Dec. 9, at 4:30 p.m. in Ernst Common Room of Blaustein Humanities Center.

Chief among the supporters being honored is retiring President Leo I. Higdon, Jr., who made LGBTQ issues a focal point during his seven years leading the College. He is widely credited with the creation of the LGBTQ Resource Center and a host of other programs and initiatives to help create a more inclusive environment on campus.

“Lee made the decision to take LGBTQ issues seriously,” said Jen Manion, associate professor of history and director of the LGBTQ Resource Center. “Everything we’ve accomplished has been during his administration.”

Several of those accomplishments will be saluted at the event, including the College’s inclusion on a list of the top 25 LGBT-friendly colleges and universities in the country, compiled by the LGBTQ nonprofit Campus Pride and the Huffington Post, as well as the premiere of a new video produced by student-athletes for the “You Can Play” project. “You Can Play” challenges the homophobic culture in sports by focusing on an athlete’s ability to compete, and the project’s website features a library of videos in which college and professional athletes support the objective.

Lowell Abbott ’14, a member of the women’s soccer team and captain of the women’s lacrosse team, has not had any prior involvement with the LGBTQ Resource Center, but was so intrigued by the premise behind “You Can Play” that she was inspired to produce the College’s video submission.

“I hope student-athletes looking at Conn will see the video and understand our culture before getting to campus, and those affected more personally by the video will come to Conn with the knowledge that Connecticut College athletics are a safe and welcoming space regardless of sexual orientation,” Abbott said.

The event will also include a keynote address by activist Urvashi Vaid, who will discuss “Real Progress, Real Problems: A Critical Look at the LGBT Movement.” Vaid is a community organizer, writer, attorney and pioneer in the LGBT and social justice movements. She is now the director of the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School.

“Urvashi is the leader of a generation who has articulated the vision for an inclusive social justice movement for 30 years,” said Manion. “Her participation helps connect us with a bigger vision, which is fitting because this celebration isn’t just about the LGBTQ Resource Center. It’s about the whole community. It’s about policies, collaborations and workshops that have been happening for seven years. This is a culmination of everyone’s work.”

The event is open to the public and is sponsored by the Office of the President; the dean of the College and the dean of multicultural affairs; Unity House; the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity; the offices of admission, affirmative action, alumni relations, athletics, dean of the faculty, information services, and religious and spiritual life; and the departments of gender and women’s studies and history.

For more information, contact Manion at jmanion@conncoll.edu

December 3, 2013