The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity held its grand opening on Sept. 27, welcoming alumni, students and administrators alike.
The center—previously known as the LGBT Center and located in the basement of West Union—moved to the top floor of Bryan Center at the beginning of this academic year.
“The new location is a lovely one,” said President Brodhead, who gave a speech in support of the center. “Symbolically, you heard about the interpretations people have about it being visible and prominent—next to the Chapel, just off the Main Quad. That’s a lovely symbolism, and hopefully it’s accurate.”
The grand opening is on the same weekend as Homecoming and North Carolina Pride Parade and Festival.
“It just so happens that the homecoming weekend falls on the same weekend as the parade weekend,” Director of the Center Janie Long said. “We are going to have a lot of alums in town, and they played such a great role in getting us to this place—it just seems like there really was no other choice but to have it this weekend, because they are so important to us.”
The grand opening featured multiple guest speakers, including Tom Clark, Trinity ’69, the first openly gay president of the Duke Alumni Association and the first openly gay trustee of the University.
Clark traced the major milestones of the LGBT group at Duke through history, and drew parallels between the civil rights movements in the black community and LGBT community.
“In 1963, when the first black student admitted to Duke University arrived, the LGBT members on campus were either invisible or dispelled,” Clark said.
The University has come a long way from having the Duke Gay and Lesbian Alliance de-chartered by Duke Student Government in 1983 due to legal concerns about promoting homosexuality—then against the law—to the inclusion of sexual preference in the University’s non-discrimination policy in 1989, Clark added.
The grand opening also featured guest speaker Sara-Jane Raines, Trinity ’83 and current co-chair of the Duke LGBT Task Force, and Fred Steckler, Trinity ’83 and chief administrative officer of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Between 40 and 50 alumni showed up to the grand opening, said Scott Greenwood, chief operating officer of Duke Alumni Association.
“This is just a tremendous opportunity to celebrate Duke’s commitment to this community,” Greenwood said. “It was so affirming about how everyone feels so welcomed and included. It’s just such a great day.”
Long noted that the opening was probably “the greatest turn-out in the history of the center,” noting that she was pleased to see the growth in both numbers and support of this community.
“One of the most important messages it sends is that this community is valued,” Long said. “Another message that it sends is that this center exists for any student at Duke who wants to come here. My first year here, we had four graduates, and only one of them was an undergraduate student. Now, we have over 40 undergraduate students each year—that’s a big change.”
DSG President Stefani Jones said that the new location of the center represents how much importance the University places on its LGBTQ community.
“The fact that it is right in the middle of campus and so prominent for students shows that this is a community that Duke cares about,” Jones said.