Students, faculty and staff gathered in the new Queer Unity Student Success Center to celebrate its opening

Queer Unity Student Success Center opens its doors at Cal State East Bay

  • BY Sarah Harris
  • April 30, 2024

A Celebration of Queer Unity

On April 18, the Queer Unity Student Success Center (QUSSC) opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the New University Union. The ribbon cutting was met with joyful cheers and the waving of Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride Flags. The QUSSC is located at UU 1005 within the Diversity and Inclusion Student Center (DISC). 

Every party involved in the QUSSC’s opening emphasized that this moment came as the result of a concerted group effort. 

Before the ceremony, Dr. Cookie Garrett, director of the Diversity & Inclusion Student Affinity & Resource Centers, said, “I’d like to honor the work that Queers United put in to advocate for this space. Various groups have been advocating for a while and I’m excited to have it as space now.” The Cal State East Bay student-run organization Queers United aims to foster inclusivity, respect and unity while creating a space to deconstruct gender and sexuality. Members of the Queers United Board and general membership were in attendance. 

“This is not the full development yet, this is just the beginning,” Dr. Garrett said. She encouraged students to give input about how they want to engage in the new space so the DISARC can create events, activities and programs around student needs.

President Cathy Sandeen also gave brief remarks and expressed her gratitude for the contributions of Dr. Garrett and Dr. Martin Castillo, Associate Vice President of Equity & Belonging/Dean of Students.

Queer Unity Success Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Queer Unity Success Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

A Space for Community 

Since officially opening in 2022, the Diversity and Inclusion Student Affinity and Resource Centers (DISARC) at Cal State East Bay have been bustling hubs of engagement and support for undocumented students and students of various cultures. The QUSSC joins the existing centers as a much-needed place for students to build community, find resources and establish life-long networks.

“Early in her time at East Bay, President Sandeen had reached out to the LGBTQ+ Staff & Faculty Association asking for our leadership in gathering data on what support resources would be beneficial to the LGBTQ+ community,” said James Carroll, co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Staff & Faculty Association and executive director of Associated Students Incorporated. 

The LGBTQ+ Staff and Faculty Association members sent out two surveys — one for faculty and staff and one for students — to adequately assess the needs of the LGBTQ+ campus community. Queers United lent a helping hand in shaping questions for students to express their needs.

According to the report summarizing the findings of both surveys, “The urgency to address the needs of our LGBTQ+ community continues to increase as states and legislation is being passed to take away and limit rights for folks who are seeking to be valued for their gender and sexual identities. The needs of this community and the urgency for Cal State East Bay to acknowledge and help serve our students is more powerful now than ever.”

Recommendations from the survey included: establishing a dedicated LGBTQ+ community space, implementing an intentional training/ally-awareness program, increasing LGBTQ+-centered engagement activities and ensuring that LGBTQ+ voices are included in administrative priorities.  

Dr. Michael Schmeltz, co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Staff & Faculty Association and public health professor, said, “The main item that came up was students, faculty and staff wanted a dedicated space for the community.” Dr. Schmeltz and the report noted that a place on the East Bay campus will help connect the community to others in the broader Bay Area LGBTQ+ community. “Covid disrupted a lot of community-gathering on campus and I hope this center will reinvigorate the community to come together and celebrate ourselves,” he said. 

Dr. Kathleen Wong(Lau), University Diversity Officer, said, “When I arrived on campus, I was very pleased that opening the center was a top presidential priority.” 

“CSUEB has been deficient in this area and while there is still progress to be made, President Sandeen has listened and she continues to work to identify resources for positive change on campus. It has been a privilege to partner with the LQBTQ+ students, faculty and staff as we all work together toward a Queer Unity Center!” said Carroll. 

With the QUSSC now open, Dr. Castillo, who is also treasurer of the LGBTQ+ Staff & Faculty Association, said, “I am hopeful that our students utilize the center to strengthen their sense of belonging at Cal State East Bay through networking and learning opportunities.”

Dr. Schmeltz hopes to see more people from the LGBTQ+ community gathering for both social and educational events in this space where they feel comfortable. He said, “A lot of times our community is hidden because you self-identify if you want to be part of it. It’s easier when there’s a dedicated space where we can meet together. I hope it builds unity, with staff, students and faculty feeling welcome and celebrating our community.”