EYE on UCSD: Form Follows Function

    The inside of the new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center is so quiet, sometimes you can hear the shuffling of the cards during an Uno championship tournament. Silence this thick is usually tense, but the occasional bursts of laughter shatter any illusion of pressure. It is here, among the rollaway couch segments and little tubs of Play-Doh lining the windowsill, where professors hold class and office hours in the conference room, students relax or study, and card tournaments reach dramatic climax.

    The old resource center was a cramped portable built with the Cold War in mind — small and easily deconstructed. Realtors would have called it “cozy.” Since its relocation closer to the Mandeville Center, the interior design has changed from kindergarten classroom to a floor model for Ikea, where slick gray metal and chicly exposed wood ceilings adorn the space. It is spacious and well-lit by suspended white orb lamps; the architect seems to have taken a leaf out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s book, with the accommodating form following the openness of its function.

    According to center Director Shaun Travers, the function of the space is simple — to “build community.” He has directed the center since he was hired in 2001, two years after its creation.

    “It is the largest LGBT center in any public institution, which makes me very happy!” Travers said.

    Like any institution, the center’s mission runs the risk of dissolving into political rhetoric. It is one thing to say one is providing, as Travers said, “an open, diverse, welcoming [space] for all members of the university campus to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in,” and a completely different matter to actually provide it.

    When asked if he had a favorite success story, Travers laughed at the ceiling and said there were many. One story in particular, though, of a student who came out almost on his first day of college and is now going through Rainbow Graduation, remains a favorite. His name is Rafael Colonna.

    Revelle College senior Colonna had a bold Welcome Week his freshman year, deciding to come out at the annual Q-Camp.

    “I had planned to come out,” Colonna said. “Q-Camp was a first step.”

    Q-Camp is the yearly orientation event that acquaints students with the LGBT resources on campus and provides an inspirational potluck.

    “The potluck afterwards really helped me. Almost immediately it helped me get over some of the shit I had,” Colonna said.

    More than just a place to hang out, the center provided Colonna with opportunities and activities to fill his time. He volunteered for FallFest. He got involved with Speaker’s Bureau, an outreach program meant to educate the campus about LGBT issues. Colonna said his experience was “empowering.”

    Center leaders have set their sights on academic achievement. One long-term goal is the creation of an LGBT minor, perhaps through the Critical Gender Studies program.

    But the center will also continue to face its biggest problem — freshman orientation. Due to the changing and dynamic population of this campus’ future students, the largest issue the center handles is the constant education of incoming freshmen. Despite its increase in square footage, the new building will be hard-pressed to keep up with its leadership.

    “We will continue to expand our academic connections to the campus,” Travers said. “[And provide] connections between the classroom, and the lived identity.”

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