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Out and Proud at Ithaca

Written by Bryan Roth '07
5/10/2007

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In a city such as Ithaca and on a campus like Ithaca College, the personalities and people you can encounter cover the entire spectrum of possibilities. In such a free-flowing place of intellectualism and acceptance, it should be no surprise to find a thriving community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students at IC.      

Although there are some 4000 colleges and universities in the US, just 200 or so have LGBT centers, and Ithaca is one of them. Not only that, the College was also named one of the top 100 LGBT-friendliest campuses in 2006 by the Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. Since November 2001, Lisa Maurer has overseen Ithaca’s Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services, a place that not only welcomes LGBT students, but anyone from the Ithaca College community to help get them acquainted or active with what the center and College have to offer.

The depth of LGBT information that students are interested in has increased steadily in recent years, Maurer says. “In the beginning, [prospective students] wanted to know things like ‘might it be safe here for me?’ and now students are coming in with a lot of leadership experience that they already gained as high school students and they want to know how they can grow further if they come to Ithaca College.”

Also serving as a primary facilitator between the LGBT community and campus is PRISM, a LGBT student-run organization. Stephanie Masline [class year], webmaster and president of the group, says that the knowledge and skills she’s learned since coming to Ithaca College pales in comparison to some of the new student leaders that are arriving for their first year on campus.

“In high school, [LGBT] alliances are becoming more and more of the norm and so people are willing to come to college and be more active,” says Masline, adding that in her three years at IC, there have been many more LGBT students she’s met that were out and active for the gay community long before they were even applied to Ithaca.

Maurer has observed the same trend. “In the last few years not only has the experience level of LGBT students and allies coming in gone up, but also we have a couple of students who are here specifically because of scholarships that they received from other organizations or institutions. Those students who come here have greatly enriched our community because they were singled out as leaders before they even got to college. They’ve been a remarkable addition to our campus,” she says.

One of the best parts of the accepting nature in and around Ithaca College is how involved straight students have been in issues regarding the LGBT community. Maurer is proud that one of the former students who played a key role in helping to establish Ithaca’s LGBT center was straight. This young woman made the decision to become more active and share her beliefs when a close friend was kicked out of high school for being openly gay.

“On this campus, our history has always been intertwined with allies because she was such an outspoken advocate,” says Maurer. “The fact that an ally was very involved from the very beginning of an idea for this office was instrumental in the way things have progressed. We’ve always been very indebted to our allies.”

College—more than anywhere else—is about learning more about yourself and others. It’s just this kind of supportive environment that has helped Ithaca’s LGBT community grow.

               



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