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Wayne State University Is Getting a Center That Will Bring LGBTQ+ Services Closer to Students

Queer students weigh in on what the project means to them

A new center at Wayne State University will focus on sexuality and gender studies. The school’s Board of Governors has approved the creation of the dedicated space, which will be housed within the school’s student center.

“It’s a huge deal. This is really a monumental new development for our community on campus," said Simone Chess, an associate professor of English and the Director of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the university.

"Wayne State, for a research university of its size, was really behind our peer and neighboring institutions in terms of dedicated university resources for LGBTQ and feminist students because of our legacy as a commuter school; there were fewer student service resources than people might have expected,” she added. “We’ve always made it work. We’ve always had a thriving LGBTQ community on our campus, but this center is a really big step in centralizing the resources that we do have and growing those resources.”

By making it work, Chess means a scattershot of services, including an out-of-the-way location way up in the Maccabees Building, an Art Deco building at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Putnam, adjacent to the Detroit Institute of Art and the Detroit Public Library’s main branch.

The fact that there will now be a permanent, expanded space in the much more heavily trafficked student center is a welcome step for Hal Sutherland, a queer junior majoring in art history. He just wishes it happened sooner.

WSU STUDENT CENTER JD 91
Wayne State University Student Center. Photo: wayne.edu

“It is really, really exciting to finally have a safe space on campus to exist as a queer person," Sutherland said. "Not that existing as a queer person on campus is inherently unsafe, but I definitely do feel better having a space to be with other queer people, and I don’t have to worry about people giving me weird looks or making comments about the way that I look or the way that I present myself."

"I’m excited the freshmen have an opportunity to cultivate a safe space with other like-minded queer people that I didn’t have when I was a freshman," he added. "I didn’t realize there were queer spaces on campus until the beginning of my sophomore year.” 

The new center will be open next year on the sixth floor of the student center, adjacent to other student organizations such as the Office of Multi-Cultural Student Engagement, the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies and the new Office for Sexual Violence and Education. A completion date for the new center has not been set.

When the center does officially open, trans student Jamie Pittinos, a junior, plans on using the space to plan events for the student organizations that they are the president of — CAMP and the Queer Creators Guild

“This is the first time since I’ve been a student that a very large sum of money has been given specifically to queer people. The same goes to a large space,” Pittinos said. “Before, we just had to create our own spaces and raise our own money. So, this is really exciting. It also gives us a lot of visibility that we’ve never had before, as well as safety, because visibility without safety is dangerous for us.”

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