Oct. 5, 2007
By George Mauzy
Some people don't like change, but don't count Mickey Hart among them.
The director of Ohio University's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center is optimistic about recent developments involving LGBT initiatives at the university, which "The Advocate College Guide" lists as one of the top 100 campuses in the nation for LGBT students, largely because of Hart's hard work.
A two-time Ohio University alumnus and native of nearby Laurelville, Ohio, Hart has coordinated the university's LGBT activities since 2001, when he served as a quarter-time coordinator of LGBT programs and a full-time resident director. In 2003, he became the LGBT Center's full-time coordinator.
This past May, responsibility for the center moved from Student Affairs to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. When a vice provost for diversity, access and equity begins work winter quarter, the center will join Institutional Equity, Multicultural Programs, the Women's Center, Disability Services and other diversity-related scholarship and retention programs under the new vice provost.
"My promotion to director status this year is an exciting positive step for the prominence of the center on campus." Hart said. "More importantly, it sends a message to LGBT folks and the entire campus community that the university is making a stronger commitment.
"I'm excited about this year because the LGBT Center is heading in a positive direction and, since 1998, I have noticed a steady growth in commitment to LGBT initiatives by the university," Hart said. "As much as I loved being a part of Student Affairs, I'm happy to be grouped with other diversity-related centers and programs on campus because that is where we best fit."
Interim Executive Provost David Descutner, who is providing oversight until the new provost for diversity, access and equity begins work, agrees.
"Until recently, diversity units were distributed across Student Affairs, the president's office and the provost's office, which made it difficult for them to collaborate," he said. "Placing all of these units within the provost's office should create better conditions for collaboration and even yield some operating efficiencies.
"For many years, Mickey has been an effective, creative leader on our campus for the LGBT community," Descutner added. "He has already played a key role in getting the new diversity organization off to a good start through his collegiality and thoughtful recommendations, and I know that he will continue to be a vital and affirmative influence in the years to come."
The LGBT Center's physical move to the new Baker University Center was a positive on as well, providing more room for an LGBT resource library, study area and meeting space. "We have seen more visitors in the new center," Hart said. "I think a lot of it is due to the increased traffic in Baker, but it could also be the fact that the space is bigger and more useful. I'm hoping that our lounge, which I see as the campus' LGBT living room, becomes known as a safe and relaxing haven for LGBT and allied students."
The center's work, Hart noted, affects students beyond those in the LGBT community.
"LGBT activities serve an important function on campus," Hart said. "All students should have an accurate understanding and awareness of LGBT people and issues because they will likely encounter them on the job after college. Exposure in college will make our graduates more effective in the workplace."
Despite the steady growth and increased exposure of LGBT initiatives, Hart said there are stilll misconceptions to clear up.
"Many people believe there is one single entity called 'the LGBT,' and that's not true," Hart said. "There are many diverse groups and people who make up the LGBT community, and at least 10 student groups do LGBT programming and have a direct connection to the LGBT Center. The center's goal is to serve as a support mechanism for all of these students, while also increasing LGBT awareness and education on campus."
Hart's long-term goals include creating a master plan for the LGBT Center, finding ways to communicate offerings to more LGBT students, faculty and staff, and strengthening the LGBT Society of Alumni and Friends.
Next week, the student group Open Doors offers a variety of programming for OUT Week, which includes National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. October is recognized as LGBT History Month on campus and nationally.