The Queer Resource Center (QRC) of the Claremont Colleges has been hosting a series of open review sessions from Mar. 21 until Apr. 12.
The current sessions are the culmination of a review process initiated in spring 2015 by Adriana di Bartolo, who was then serving as director of the QRC and is now Acting Associate Dean of Students for Wellness and Personal Success. These weekly meetings have been held during lunchtime at each of the 7Cs and at the QRC itself, intending to inform interested staff, faculty, and students of the results from a fall 2015 external review of the resource center.
Di Bartolo said that the QRC decided to hold the sessions in different locations around the 7Cs because “we wanted to make sure that everybody on all the campuses could access us, that we were bringing [these discussions] into spaces where folks were used to going, that they were able to access this information.”
According to di Bartolo's email to the QRC mailing list, “four experts in the field of LGBTQ services and social justice education were chosen to conduct the review,” submitting their final report in December 2015.
Allan Forbes, acting director of the QRC, said, “[The experts] came on October 5th and 6th, and during those two days they had focus groups for faculty, staff, and students, they had closed groups for QTPOC students, they had closed groups for trans and genderqueer students, they talked to [almuni] and really tried to get as much breadth as they could in the two days they were here.”
At the open review sessions this spring, students and faculty in attendance were each distributed a summary of the External Review Report and were invited to view a copy of the full report itself. The facilitator at each session guided the audience through the summary of the report before opening up the floor for questions. Forbes led the majority of the sessions, speaking first on the objectives of the External Review Team, and then on the highlights and challenges of the review process and the recommendations that the team came up with.
The discussions included questions on the naming of the center, the lead college model of the QRC, the need for an advisory committee, the QRC’s staffing model, and how the QRC serves the needs of the entire consortium, according to Forbes.
On naming, the review team noted that many “students, staff, and faculty struggled with the connotation of the term ‘queer,’ [perceiving] it as activisty, radical, theory-driven, White, and Euro/Anglo-centric,” according to a flyer distributed at the review sessions. But due to the lack of consensus on a name change, Forbes said that the QRC has decided to “keep the QRC as the name, and [later] down the road we’ll revise and see where we’re at with language at that point.”
On the lead college model and the challenges of serving an entire consortium, the reviewers found that the “perceived distance of the Center” was a major obstacle.
Forbes also mentioned the challenge in the perception that “queer scene is often a white community or a white term, that students of color may not feel welcome in the space to begin with.”
To address some of the primary concerns raised, the QRC plans to act on the recommendations made by the review team.
In particular, in the near future, Forbes said that the QRC would work to “formalize and articulate intentional structural policies and practices” when it came to hiring, “develop and implement a comprehensive, learning outcomes driven assessment and evaluation plan…to codify intentional steps to achieve institutional, community, and student-centered outcomes,” and to “provide an intentional mediation space with external, third party mediators to address concerns from QTPOC students and foster healing and healthy conflict mediation strategies.”
According to di Bartolo, “[The student turnout for these events] has been small but good. We've had really great conversations; folks have been engaged, I think there have been folks at every event.”
Next week, on Apr. 12, one more session will be held at the Claremont McKenna College’s I-Place.