Center for gender and sexuality ushers in a new era of support for women and LGBTQIA+ students at Princeton

Building upon the historical legacy and impactful work of Princeton’s Women*s Center and LGBT Center, a new center for gender and sexuality at Princeton University will launch in fall 2021, allowing staff to better serve individuals and groups across campus, said LaTanya Buck, dean for diversity and inclusion in the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life.

“Students’ identities, experiences and needs, and the ways in which students experience college campuses have evolved over the years,” Buck said. “Under the umbrella of a new center for gender and sexuality — and with the energy of a renewed commitment to improve understanding and facilitate belonging for all students — we will be better able to carry out our mission to eliminate discrimination and injustice at Princeton based on sex, gender and sexual identity.”

With a focus on the student co-curricular experience, the center will engage all members of the Princeton community through education, training and programming on gender and sexuality. Staff members will provide individual and group support for students, and serve as a resource and content expert for the campus.

Small-group listening sessions with students, faculty and staff will be held in late April to facilitate the transition and help name the new center, Buck said. Approximately 10 listening sessions are planned, each lasting 75 minutes and including 10 participants. (Sign-up details are below.)

“This new center will allow us to amplify the voices and experiences of our LGBTQIA+ and women-identified students,” said W. Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for campus life.

The new center will bring together the staff of the Women*s Center and LGBT Center, maintaining current services and allowing for more expansive programming that acknowledges the many intersections of gender and sexual identity. The center will affirm and assist students in their exploration of sexuality, gender, asexuality, agender, race, ability and religion, among other identities.

The Women*s Center was founded in 1971 by some of the Princeton’s first undergraduate women. Building upon a legacy of activism and advocacy, the Women*s Center has remained committed throughout the years to inclusive and intersectional feminism, and centering equity and racial justice, particularly for people of marginalized identities.

Princeton’s LGBT Center dates back to 1989, when the offices of the Dean of the Chapel and the Dean of Student Life began hiring graduate students to help organize LGBT student activities. In 2001, Princeton University became the sixth university in the country to create an LGBT coordinator position. The LGBT Center was officially launched in 2005.

The yet-unnamed center for gender and sexuality will benefit from the leadership of a newly created assistant dean for diversity and inclusion/director position, which will give the center more institutional leverage than it had in the past, Buck said. An assistant director and two program coordinators, each with a programmatic and support emphasis on LGBTQIA+ and women/femme/gender identities, will also be part of the leadership team.

The Rainbow Lounge and Women*s Space will continue to operate separately within the new center at Frist Campus Center, allowing for more personalized services and to maintain affinity space.

The new center also will allow for more synergy and collaboration with the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) and its curricular experience, Buck said.

GSS has undergone its own evolution at Princeton, launching as women’s studies in 1982. It was renamed gender and sexuality studies in 2011 to reflect the trajectory and expanded reach of the teaching and scholarship among Princeton faculty, and in the field more generally.

GSS recently named Wallace Best, professor of religion and African American studies, as its first male and first African American director.

“There is an opportunity for us to continue to explore gender and sexuality through a critical and intersectional lens, engage GSS students’ and scholars’ research, and partner on co-curricular experiences like programming and mentorship,” Buck said.

Listening sessions for the new center will be conducted during the weeks of April 19 and 26. Interested participants may sign up to join sessions for students and for faculty and staff.

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