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Five years of supportCAMPUS CELEBRATES LGBT CENTER'S FOUNDINGBY Amy Ko / UCLA Today Staff

   Little more than five years ago, there was no safe haven  for students, staff and faculty to go where they could be assured they would not be judged or embarrassed about their sexual orientation.

   Today, the UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center is such a place, as well as a campus resource center for referral, education,  information and advocacy on homosexual and transgender issues. On Oct. 30, the center will mark its fifth anniversary with a daylong celebration.

   "I'm very excited that this is truly a campus event,"  said Ronni Sanlo, the center's director. "It feels very good to know that entities such as The Anderson School and many areas of Student Affairs are supporting it."

    Being honored at the event is LGBT Center founder Curt Shepard who, after earning his Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA in 1989, worked in Student Affairs until 1993.  At that time he also served on the board of directors at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and became intrigued by the idea of a campus resource center for gays and lesbians.

    "Despite a long history of activism at UCLA, the climate wasn't great, especially for faculty and staff," said Shepard, who had already co-founded, with admissions director Rae Lee Siporin, the  UCLA Lesbian and Gay Faculty/Staff Network. "I thought a resource center was a great way to advance the cause."

   Shepard's proposal to establish such a center at UCLA included statistics from a general  campus-climate survey that he helped conduct for Student Affairs. The survey showed that LGBT people had complaints about harassment on campus: "It provided data to back up our claim that it  wasn't a great climate on campus. It confirmed what we knew anecdotally," said Shepard. The proposal helped establish many other campus resource centers around the country as well.

    It took a few years, but finally in 1994 Chancellor Emeritus Charles E. Young provided $25,000 in an annual permanent budget to establish the center, and Student Affairs matched the amount for  start-up costs. The LGBT Resource Center opened March 8, 1995, and was directed by Charles Outcalt.

   When Outcalt left the position in 1997, Sanlo was recruited from the University of Michigan to  head up UCLA's center. "It was such a coup for UCLA to get her because she is such a star. She had been doing it a long time and was already a national leader," said Shepard. "I'm delighted at  the way the center has grown and been institutionalized. It's not isolated, it has fingers all over campus, and I think that's a credit to Ronni."

    Sanlo, too, is happy with what the center has accomplished — such as playing a leading role in the establishment of domestic-partner benefits at UCLA and simply familiarizing campus with the  term LGBT — and where it's going. In a few years, the center will move from Kinsey Hall into a much larger area in the refurbished Men's Gym building. The center is currently focused on  developing high school outreach programs, becoming a model for other campuses and finding financial assistance and scholarships for students. And Sanlo will continue to write grant  proposals and expand research being conducted at the center.

   The anniversary event will also include a workshop on homophobia presented by Warren J.  Blumenfeld, founding director of the National Gay Student Center, and guest speaker Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew, a University of Wyoming student, was murdered because of his  sexual orientation. For more information, call (310) 206-3628 or go to www.lgbt.ucla.edu. Copyright 2000 UC Regents
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