Helping LGBTQ Students Find Their Place
Ted Lewis joined the University of Richmond as the associate director of Common Ground for LGBTQ campus life in July.
With his first semester now in full swing, GAYRVA.COM spoke with Lewis on what the new position means for the campus.
GAYRVA: Why is this position needed on campus?
Lewis: Statistically over and over again, whether it’s from GLSEN, or Campus Pride,
LGBTQ students face more harrassment in their environments. They feel like they don’t fit in. LGBTQ teens more likely to contemplate suicide. The university took a look at the data that’s been coming out and realized there was a need to better serve students.
In the same way, the University of Richmond has been helping all students find their place through Common Ground.
What are your goals in this position?
I want LGBTQ campus life to be integrated into the rest of campus life at the University of Richmond. I think this position has a lot of responsibility to engage with community partners at other colleges and universities – there isn’t a position like this at other local campuses. I hope that we grow to become a staple of the university.
What are some of the programs you’re working on?
We’re revamping the current programming and reenergizing this year. We started a queer book club. This year’s theme is queer classics like Giovanni’s Room.
We’re creating social opportunities for students with an LGBTQ lounge that will be a hangout space for students.
What drew you to this position?
Personally, my family still lives close to Northern Virginia. Professionally, I was interested in the concept of Common Ground that works across the university as for students and faculty. There’s the ability to create something new that included dedicated [lounge] space.
How do you plan to work with other LGBT groups in Richmond?
I’ve been talking to ROSMY about how we can engage better including donating to their library and extending the invitation to some of our speakers. Fan Free Clinic has also agreed provide HIV testing on campus. Richmond has a lot of great organizations we can partner with.
What is the update on the LGBTQ & Ally Living-Learning community?
This year, we have six members of that community and a resident advisor. Next year, we’ll be adding academic components inside and outside the classroom to continue expanding the program…
Here, there’s a very strong foundation including the Safe Zone program and non-discrimination policy. We have established student groups and supportive faculty and staff that are out.
As an administrator, how do you work with students that want to get involved in activism? Is there a boundary there?
At a public university, I wasn’t always allowed to have opinions. My goal is not to stiffle student’s activism. I hope to give them information and tools so they can learn the best way to get their message across. I think protests are great, but sometimes it’s also lettering campaigns, working with the press, and strategic meetings with key officials. I think Common Ground as a whole works for students and gives all students the tools to advocate for themselves.
The journey that LGBTQ youths live is constantly changing.October 24, 2016
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