IU's GLBT office poised to move into campus office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs

By Ryan Piurek

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Indiana University’s office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Student Support Services will officially move from its current home in the Division of Student Affairs to the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs on July 1.

The move will enable the office to expand beyond the Bloomington campus to provide mentoring and advice to all IU campuses as part of a university-wide office. In addition, the move aligns GLBT Student Support Services with the campus cultural centers, which enjoy a close connection with the IU Alumni Association. IUAA’s GLBTAA Scholarship Campaign is the nation’s first devoted to assisting GLBT and ally students.

Provost Lauren Robel
Lauren Robel

IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said the move also represents another step toward making IU campus communities more diverse and inclusive.

“One of the central themes of our plans for undergraduate life is a commitment to diversity to improve our classrooms, research and community,” Robel said. “Part of that mission includes the ability to provide students with on-campus support systems like our effective GLBT Student Services office.”

IU’s GLBT office originated under former dean of students Dick McKaig nearly 20 years ago with support from then-associate dean of students Pam Freeman and chancellor Ken Gros Louis. Freeman and McKaig initially sought funding for gay students who had lost support from their families, the first step toward creation of the office. The office will celebrate its 20-year birthday in November at its house at 705 E. 7th St. across from Dunn Meadow.

James Wimbush
James Wimbush

James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, has been at IU since 1991. He remembers when the GLBT center formed and also when former IU President Myles Brand sought to provide health benefits to same-sex domestic partners, a path-breaking move in Indiana at the time.

Wimbush sees the addition of GLBT to the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs as a natural fit. “In this office, we define diversity very broadly,” he said. “The advocacy and support that the GLBT Student Services office provides for the GLBT community is so important to what we’re trying to achieve.”

Wimbush said the GLBT move supports several of his office’s key priorities: recruitment and retention; campus climate; and outreach and advocacy. 

“I have said over and over that the key to helping to enhance the campus climate is through the cultural centers. I’ve always seen GLBT Student Services as a cultural center, even though we don’t call it that,” Wimbush said. “We made a commitment early on to bolster the support for the cultural centers so that they would have more programming and more support on all fronts, in recruitment, advocacy and outreach.”

IU is often listed as one of the most gay-friendly campuses. Wimbush attributes that to the GLBT office being opened and led by Doug Bauder, the director. “It has also provided support -- not just for the students, but to faculty and staff,” Wimbush said. “The start of that office sent a message that it’s OK to be gay, it’s OK to be transgendered, it’s OK to be a lesbian on this campus.”

Bauder said that from his perspective, the move is a clear recognition on the part of the university that issues of diversity as related to sexuality are as important as issues of diversity related to race and ethnicity. And now, the relationships he has cultivated over time with the campus culture centers will be officially aligned.

Doug Bauder
Doug Bauder

“I always felt that it was important to work collaboratively, but for years it was an informal relationship,” Bauder said. “Now it’s formalized. I think that will serve our students better, particularly those who struggle with multiple identities,” said Bauder, who estimates that he’s been contacted to consult with at least 200 campuses on GLBT centers.

“It’s exciting to see what has happened over the past 20 years. Certainly we’ve been impacted by what’s going on in the larger culture, but we have also impacted that culture,” Bauder said. He mentioned Shane Windmeyer, an IU alumnus who cofounded then national organization Campus Pride, which supports student leaders and campus organizations throughout the nation that are working to create a safer college environment for GLBT students.  

“As I’ve talked to different groups over the last several months and I’ve mentioned this was going to happen, I have gotten applause from audiences,” Wimbush said. “A number of people would come up to me afterward and say, ‘I’m so glad. I’m so happy about this.’ Those comments and the support from Provost Robel, Dean Goldsmith and Doug Bauder have helped me to feel even better about the transition.”

“The goal is always to create hope,” Robel said. “We want to open a space for people to have a vision that integrates diversity, global empathy and intercultural understanding at all points of the shared student experience. Consolidation of GLBT Student Services with the campus cultural centers makes all of these resources more visible.”

The GLBT office will report to Joyce Rogers, vice president for development and external relations for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and senior advisor for strategic development initiatives and to Martin McCrory, associate vice president for development and external relations for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and vice provost for educational inclusion and diversity.