Pride Center

The Pride Center is located at 1616 Melrose Avenue on the University of Tennessee campus. 

The Commission for LGBT People serves to represent and protect the LGBTQ community on campus.

The Commission for LGBT People, one of the three commissions that works closely with new Interim Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement Tyvi Small, is a group made up of faculty, staff and students from different colleges and departments dedicated to supporting sexual and gender minorities on campus.

Joel Anderson, associate professor in the College of Nursing and co-chair of the Commission, said that the group looks for ways administration can provide for individuals in the LGBTQ community to “feel safe and included in the campus community.”

“All of the Chancellor’s Diversity Commissions represent underrepresented or vulnerable individuals on campus, so we are tasked with making sure that the administration hears the concerns that are brought forward by our constituencies,” Anderson said. “In this case, (the Commission for LGBT People focuses on) sexual and gender minorities or LGBT people on campus and what the administration and university can do to support those individuals.”

Mitsunori Misawa, assistant professor in the Educational Psychology and Counseling Department and co-chair of the Commission for LGBT People, said that the group serves to help the LGBT population on campus “in terms of their psychological and physical safety.”

One example of how the Commission gets involved with students, according to Anderson, is “making sure that the Pride Center is there and visible and functioning and available to students” along with “making sure that language that we use in our communications and websites and publications are inclusive as well.”

The group meets monthly in Hodges Library 605; their meeting dates can be found on their website. While meetings are open to the public, only voting members of the Commission can vote to approve proposals or statements issued by the group.

“The Commission is a place where the LGBTQ community can bring their concerns,” Anderson said. “So, we’re a space for discussion about issues that are affecting people’s space for people to bring their concerns forward, whether that be student or staff member or faculty member, so that we can determine as a Commission what best to do about it.”

Anderson encouraged that students apply to be part of the Commission.

“I think it’s important for students to know for our Commission as well as the others if they want to be involved they can be; it’s not just faculty, it’s not just staff,” Anderson said. “Students are the largest constituents of our campus community and we need students to be involved so that we know we are addressing issues students have, particularly vulnerable marginalized students.”

Recent work by the Commission includes working on finishing up issues from last year regarding accessibility of all gender bathrooms on campus and analyzing the climate survey of LGBTQ students “to better understand results of the data.”

Currently, the group is working on planning an event and working with the Vice Chancellor’s Office and the Commission for Blacks, Commission for Women and Council for Diversity and Interculturalism, which Anderson said is making sure that the Commissions and Council are working for a “common purpose.”

“One of the things that has been good this year is that I think all the different commissions and committees and councils were tasked with supporting diversity and inclusion on campus,” Anderson said. “Our working together more purposefully makes sure that we’re not operating in silos and that we are supporting each other.”

By working with other groups and organizations, Misawa hopes that the growing visibility of the Commission for LGBT People will enable them to help the LGBTQ people more.

“We are here to support (the LGBTQ community) if they need help,” Misawa said.

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