University fills seven-month vacancy for key administrator for LGBTQ students

The+Gender+and+Sexuality+Resource+Center.+Matt+Abtahi%2C+former+interim+director+of+DePauw+University%E2%80%99s+Center+for+Diversity+and+Inclusion%2C+filled+the+assistant+director+role+of+Multicultural+Student+Affairs.
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University fills seven-month vacancy for key administrator for LGBTQ students

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Matt Abtahi, former interim director of DePauw University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, filled the assistant director role of Multicultural Student Affairs.

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Matt Abtahi, former interim director of DePauw University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, filled the assistant director role of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Matt Abtahi, former interim director of DePauw University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, filled the assistant director role of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Matt Abtahi, former interim director of DePauw University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, filled the assistant director role of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Yunkyo Kim, Reporter

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After seven months without an assistant director for Multicultural Student Affairs, Matt Abtahi stepped into the position in September, filling a key role for LGBTQ students at Northwestern.

The Associated Student Government petitioned the administration to expedite the hiring process for what many students consider the only personnel resource for LGBTQ students. Abtahi, former interim director of DePauw University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, started working with the LGBTQ community on Sept. 12.

Soteria Reid, co-author of the petition and ASG’s executive officer of justice and inclusion, said the university responded effectively to the legislation.

“The result was better than what we even asked for,” the SESP junior said. “That’s rare.”

Early in the summer, the university formed a hiring committee with administrators and LGBTQ graduate and undergraduate students to evaluate applications. The committee then invited four final candidates to the Evanston campus for a day-long interview, which Reid and her co-author Elynnor Sandefer attended.

Sandefer, ASG vice president of campus life and former Rainbow Alliance senator, said that she was “very optimistic” about Abtahi’s future at MSA.

“I am incredibly grateful that the position is filled right now,” the Weinberg junior said. “(Abtahi) is already taking to Northwestern with an aim in trying to understand what is happening on this campus so that he knows how to proceed from there.”

ASG Executive Vice President and SESP senior Adam Davies, agreed that the university acted in the best interest of LGBTQ students by consulting with the co-authors on the legislation.

Davies said Northwestern broke with standard hiring timelines for higher education administrators, which typically starts at the beginning of a calendar year. The university was responsive to the legislation through frequent meetings between ASG and the administration, Davies said.

“I don’t know if there’s a general awareness of how important this specific position is,” they said.

Davies, Reid and Sandefer said the university should include more positions within the administration to support transgender, gender non-conforming and asexual students.

But since transgender and gender non-conforming students are 3 percent of the NU population, the university is unlikely to invest money for another assistant director, Davies said.

With Abtahi’s assistance, MSA will expand events catered for asexual-identifying students as well as transgender and gender non-conforming students. Sandefer said Abtahi would be a great source of support and “the most qualified choice.”

Outside of the administration, Reid said the student community could work harder to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students.

“People who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community should be thinking constantly about how they can uplift and support the LGBTQ+ community,” Reid said. “After that, representation follows.”

Email: yunkyokim2022@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @YunkyoMoonK

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