A Campus Services committee tasked with determining what will fill a newly available space in Lerner Hall will prioritize keeping the space open to all students, making the creation of an LGBTQ resource center or a center for students of color unlikely.
Campus Services is considering using the rooms—vacated by the Lerner Hall Package Center—as a possible performance space, a meditation and prayer space, storage space for the Columbia University Food Bank, or additional space for Counseling and Psychological Services.
But Class of 2017 Vice President Brennon Mendez, CC ’17, who authored a resolution—unanimously passed by Columbia College Student Council and Engineering Student Council—for the space to be designated for LGBTQ students and students of color, said he thinks the recommendation from the councils should carry some weight in the decision-making process.
“I would be surprised if Facilities were to prioritize other uses of the Lerner 4 space over our proposal given that the LGBTQ center is the only use of that space that's been presented to Facilities with the unanimous support of CCSC and ESC,” Mendez said. “This proposal aims to establish parity with LGBTQ resources present at our peer institutions.”
While Vice President for Campus Services Scott Wright is not decidedly against creating a space for LGBTQ students and students of color—and said he understands the reasoning behind the councils’ proposal—he indicated that it would be the first time space in Lerner has been dedicated exclusively to any particular group.
Wright said that making space in Lerner exclusive to a single group of students would require a cross-school discussion, but would ultimately be unlikely, in part because of the extreme need for available spaces on campus.
“We’re still operating under the same principles that Lerner has always operated under,” Wright said in an interview with Spectator. “We’re not closed off to changing it, but that would mean a really significant change in the amount of space available to all students.”
Mendez said he believes LGBTQ students would not be the only ones to benefit from the establishment of an LGBTQ center in Lerner.
“The false notion that an LGBTQ center would be exclusive assumes that cis straight students have no interest in attending any programming, events or meetings held by students that are focused on uplifting the culture, contributions, and community of LGBTQ students at Columbia,” Mendez said.
The Lerner Hall Advisory Committee, which will determine how the space will be used, is still looking to solicit student feedback through the councils, according to to Honey Fishman, executive director of Lerner Hall operations. The committee will next reconvene after spring break.