News

Inclusive or Exclusive?

Savannah Hurst | Reporter

A new student lounge on campus has many people excited but has left others feeling excluded.

The University of Oklahoma debuted its first Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and Queer lounge on campus with a “soft” opening on September 4. The design of this lounge is to provide a place where LGBTQ members can meet one another, develop friendships and hangout.

Two student hanging out in the new LGBTQ lounge that was opened this month in the Oklahoma Memorial Union on campus.

Two student hanging out in the new LGBTQ lounge that was opened this month in the Oklahoma Memorial Union on campus.

“The history of this room is that it was made so people wouldn’t just randomly come in here to work and eat, they wanted a place where LGBTQ people and allies could come and hang out. It’s a safe place.” University College freshman, Jada Tyus said.

While the lounge provides a safe haven for LGBTQ members, other students in minority groups feel left out, not having a space of their own.

“I commend the efforts of the LGBTQ community because I know they’ve been striving for something like that for a while, but what I don’t understand is that there are other organizations that are a lot bigger than [them] on OU’s campus and we don’t have a specific area on campus where our students can gather for our mission and purpose”, said Jennifer Nunez, vice president for the Hispanic Americans Student Association

Kathy Moxley, director of the OU Women’s Outreach Center, oversees LGBTQ programs. “We aren’t unusual or unique and if you look around campus you can see that there are other lounges for marginalized minorities on campus like the Jim Thorpe Multi-Cultural Center.

However, Nunez thinks clumping all of these minorities into one area is a problem. “The Jim Thorpe Multicultural Center doesn’t give us that space… a massive number of organizations are able to use that so there are days when we actually need to use it and are not able to which makes me feel like some organizations are valued more on campus… it’s only ours when it’s convenient to them.”

Coordinator of Community Inclusivity, Dorion Billups says that with organizations he’s been with in the past, there had always been a struggle to find a place of their own. “Sometimes you can feel very uncomfortable when you are the very few who look like and think like you and that becomes tough”, Billups said.

Billups oversees the national association of Hispanic journalists, black students, and Native American journalists and recently got a room approved in Gaylord College to be used as a community hub for the journalism unity groups he oversees. Billups says the lounge took roughly four or five months to get approved. The community hub, or lounge, will require a card swipe to get in but Billups says that any Gaylord student is allowed access in. “I don’t really want it to be an exclusive deal, we just want them to have their own space”, Billups said.

While Billups experienced struggle, Moxley expresses the process for the LGBTQ lounge as fairly quick. Moxley says that within a month of presenting to the president they were able to get the lounge approved.

While one organization has been granted a lounge for itself, others are wondering why this isn’t happening for all groups. Finding a space and providing the room with appropriate equipment and furniture is a financial obstacle that restricts other groups from having their own space.

Many believe that minorities on campus need that space to have the ability to interact with like-minded people. “OU as a whole has a lot of like-mindedness and that doesn’t tend to vibe right with a lot of the underrepresented students on campus”, Billups said.

“I know that we are not equally funded and I think that needs to go under investigation. We are the largest marginalized minority group on campus next to Caucasians and despite that, other organizations were given much more funding last year.” Nunez said.

“I think we are considerably undervalued.” Nunez said. The vice president also says having their own space would mean a lot to Latino Student Life. “I want it to head in a direction where there is a lot more equality in the assigning of spaces in community.”

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