ASG, Payne-Kirchmeier talk Gender and Sexuality Resource Center relocation obstacles, timeline

The+old+GSRC+in+Norris+University+Center.+Legislation+passed+by+ASG+calls+for+the+center+to+be+moved+to+a+house+on+Sheridan+Road.

Jacob Fulton/The Daily Northwestern

The old GSRC in Norris University Center. Legislation passed by ASG calls for the center to be moved to a house on Sheridan Road.

Angeli Mittal, Reporter

Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier spoke about the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center relocation and the University’s intended implementation at Wednesday’s Associated Student Government Senate.

Legislation passed at last week’s Senate calls for the center to be relocated to a designated house on Sheridan Rd. near other Multicultural Student Affairs affinity spaces like the Black House.

The relocation of the GSRC aims to expand upon previous initiatives to support the LGBTQ community. The administration has been shifting its approach in addressing the needs of marginalized students on campus. The LGBT Resource Center at Norris University Center opened in 2004 and gender-open restrooms at Norris were added in 2015.

“We really started to look at not just affinity groups but our affinity spaces,” Payne-Kirchmeier said.

While the resolution calls for the relocation process to start in December, Payne-Kirchmeier said there are several steps in the approval path that may hinder the progress. The relocation must pass a feasibility study to ensure ample resources and funding can be allocated in order to properly support the intended functionality of the space.

The house will also need an Evanston permit and Board of Trustees’ approval, which Payne-Kirchmeier said only meets four times a year.

“There are elements of budget, there are elements of structure, there are elements of design and there are elements of time,” Payne-Kirchmeier said.

Payne-Kirchmeier said the administration has been working on multiple projects at the same time. The addition of another in the same area could potentially create a space availability issue and shut down a major access road.

Rainbow Alliance Senator and Communications sophomore Jo Scaletty asked about the resolution’s written statement of commitment’s request that the administration formally announce the undertaking of the GSRC relocation by the end of Spring Quarter. Payne-Kirchmeier said she is uncertain when the University can provide an email commitment due to the uncertainty of the relocation timeline.

“There are a lot of systems at play here that have to connect and align for us to move forward on any major facility project, which is what this would be,” Payne-Kirchmeier said. “It takes time and this is (a) part of the process that we need to follow.”

African Student Association Senator and Medill sophomore Adaeze Ogbonna asked about how the administration intends to start and ensure the GSRC house is a safe space given the numerous factors that affect its implementation. She also asked about how the administration expects to reconcile for the lack of attention given to these students since the installment of gender-open restrooms.

Payne-Kirchmeier said the conversation for the GSRC relocation started when LGBTQ students brought attention to the inadequacy of the one-room space allocated for the LGBT Resource Center in Norris. She said since then, the administration has been paying attention to the needs of affinity groups on campus and allocating resources necessary to support them, but she recognizes that this support may not be enough.

“I think that’s another conversation point we have to have,” Payne-Kirchmeier said. “What would that kind of support look like beyond financial, beyond facility, because what we ultimately want here is a safe and supportive community for our students who identify as LGBTQIA.”

Also discussed at Wednesday’s Senate was the approval of Winter Quarter funding allocations to several student groups including Boomshaka, Happiness Club and Lipstick Theatre.

Parliamentary Debate Union member and Weinberg junior Eric Wang raised concerns about ASG’s funding process, suggesting amendments to allow the Senate to fund student groups not recognized by the Student Activities Finance Committee and add an appeals system if an organization were to be rejected.

SESP junior Andy Grossman said SAFC will take steps to amend the funding process to be as equitable as possible.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @amittal27

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