New Office Nurtures Rainbow Connection

 

 

Andrew Wickerham

In a move to further the array of diversity organizations available to the Colgate community, the University recently established a new office within the Dean of the College Division focused on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) issues. Heading this program is Student Affairs Program Assistant Emily Blake, a newcomer to Colgate, who was selected from a national pool of nearly 50 LGBTQ advocates and scholars.

Blake’s position is the product of a multi-year effort to expand what Dean of the Sophomore Year Experience Rajesh Bellani, who was a member of the search committee that hired Blake, called Colgate’s “dialogue on diversity.”

“Three years ago we received an anonymous donation to launch an LGBTQ initiative,” Bellani said. Sponsoring events such as film screenings and speaker appearances, the program was initially supported by the Women’s Studies department, with subsequent assistance from the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI), LGBTQ student groups, and Residential Life.

“Alumni [also] helped fund programs,” Bellani added.

Last spring, the decision was made to hire a program assistant to coordinate and expand these projects. The search committee whittled the field of applicants to a group of three finalists, from which Emily Blake was chosen.

According to Bellani, Colgate is lucky to have Blake heading up the program.

“Emily has many hands in many pots on the stove,” Bellani said. “She has the right balance of advocacy, supporting students and seeing the students as the priority.”

Despite her relatively recent appearance on campus, Blake quickly fell into her new role.

“One of the biggest things we do is ‘Safe Zone’ training,” Blake said. The training provides a foundation in LGBTQ issues to advocates of the LGBTQ community. Blake said she does general Safe Zone training, but also tailors the program to specific groups or departments.

Colgate’s African, Latin, Asian and Native American Cultural Center (ALANA) interns already completed the program and Blake continues to work with ALANA, as well as with various other University departments and offices, including Chapel Services and Women’s Studies. She sees her work as a complement to Bellani’s “dialogue on diversity.”

To that end, Blake is currently exploring many new ways that

she can help members of the Colgate community explore and learn from one another. Upcoming meetings with LGBTQ student groups Advocates and The Rainbow Alliance will provide Blake with insight into how she can help students reach their goals in the field.

One of the biggest developments of this sort may be the creation of an academic minor in some aspect of LGBTQ issues or studies, a hope shared by Blake and Bellani. Blake said that a meeting on the issue is scheduled for this week.

While these programs are in the development stages, Blake hopes to meet as many Colgate students as possible. “Stop in anytime, even just to chat,” she said.

According to Blake, her mission is one of understanding. She said that, working in conjunction with Colgate’s other diversity organizations, her office will help foster an atmosphere of respect, not just for LGBTQ students, but for all on campus.

“In order to grow, learn, and figure out what we value, it’s important to discuss issues with others and find out what others value,” Blake said. “You don’t have to agree to have a discussion.”