Students, faculty support creation of Gender and Sexuality Center at town hall discussion
President George Ross, Provost Michael Gealt were not in attendance despite personal invitations
Students, faculty and staff rallied in support of administrators forming a Gender and Sexuality Center on Central Michigan University's campus.
On Wednesday night at a town hall meeting, Kaye Reimers was one of many voices expressing fatigue with the university's stance on not yet adding a center to campus.
"We want a center and we demand a center," said the Saginaw senior.
Reimers serves as co-president of Students Advocating Gender Equality at Central Michigan University, often providing a voice for the group.
Although a resolution supporting the creation of the center has been passed by Student Government Association several times in recent years, it has been consistently tabled by the university.
“I don’t think people are used to women demanding things," Reimers said. "We’re always being told to be quiet and sit in the corner. We have been told the Gender and Sexuality Center is not a priority. We are trying to stress it’s a priority for students and women students. We demand a center and we demand a space.”
Organizers reserved two seats for CMU President George Ross and Provost Michael Gealt to attend the meeting, but the two were not in attendance due to other obligations.
One of the organizers, Waterford senior Autumn Gairaud, said she has met with Ross several times previously to discuss the center. At the last meeting, Ross told her about potential layoffs as the university deals with its current budget deficit, which Gairaud took as a motion to stop campaigning for the center.
“If there was something (Ross and Gealt) thought would be important enough to be here for they would have (come)," Gairaud said. "Moving forward, I think it will probably include some tension between us and our administration but I think when we create that tension, we also can put pressure on the administration to make it happen.”
Katherine Lasher, the director of the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equality; Traci Guinn Buckley, executive director of the Center for Institutional Diversity and Multicultural Academic Student Services; and Sherry Knight, associate vice president for University Communications, were among those in attendance representing the university.
The proposed Gender and Sexuality Center would absorb the current Office of LGBTQ Services and provide more resources for a wide range of genders, Gairaud said. SGA passed its recent resolution supporting the creation of the center in January.
Speakers walked up to microphone on the auditorium platform, sharing reasons why they thought the center would be an important addition to CMU. Some speakers discussed finding their gender identity and sexual assaults in their lifetime.
Kevin Daum, an application programmer for Auxiliary Services Information Technology, presented a slideshow that gave different reasons as to why the Gender and Sexuality Center should exist. He referenced a 2016 Central Michigan Life article that focused on the salaries of CMU leaders. Only one women was in the top 10 highest-paid executives at CMU.
Daum said a goal of the center would be offering a safe space for everyone.
Several SGA leaders from the past also had letters read on their behalf. Former SGA President Marie Reimers said she requests a response from the administration to see if a center is likely.
Students, including members of the registered student organization, Central Michigan Action, have petitioned for signatures on campus throughout the past couple months. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had roughly more than 2,000 signatures. Grand Rapids senior Chad Morris said the petition is aiming for 4,700 student signatures, with 6,000 as its optimistic goal.
“The student base needs to know (about the Gender and Sexuality Center), so we will continue petitioning for the rest of the semester.” Morris said.
Michigan, Michigan State and Grand Valley State are among the universities in Michigan that have women's centers on campus. Gairaud and Kaye Reimers both said it has been an uphill battle for 30 years for the administration to buy in. Gairaud said she wants a commitment from the university for the center by April 1 — the end of Women's History Month.
With the current climate under President Donald Trump, Reimers believes it has encourage students to come out of their bubbles and be political. She believes it is true for the Gender and Sexuality Center.
“We want to be more aggressive because in the past there have been (proposals, panels and petitions) but now art tactics are becoming more aggressive and we want to start going toward more demonstrations and protests," Reimers said. “I just hope that the administration and President Ross answer us and they just don’t ignore us.”
Staff reporter Sara Strohschein contributed to this article.