May 3, 2011

Students Push University to Hire New Advisor For LGBTQ Organization

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Although all student organizations that receive Student Assembly by line funding are required to have full-time administrative advisors, Haven, the University student union for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning students, has been without one since the spring of 2008.

Matt Carcella, the associate dean of students and director of the LGBT Resource Center, has acted as a part-time, unpaid advisor for Haven since his arrival at Cornell in the summer of 2009.

Concerned with the lack of administrative support for Haven, Student Assembly LGBTQ At-Large Representative Matt Danzer ’12 sponsored Resolution 86 to expedite the hiring of a full-time Assistant Dean of Students for LGBT Life. The position, which has been vacant for years, is “desperately needed” for the continued success of the umbrella organization and its subsidiary LGBTQ groups, he said.

“[Res. 86] expresses the S.A. and community’s belief that this is an important issue the administration needs to confront and deal with. My hope is that the issue will be put in a more prominent light. While there have been improvements in the quality of services for the LGBT community, they’ve been inadequate,” Danzer said.

The resolution, which the S.A. will vote on Thursday, seeks acknowledgment from the administration that there is a need for increased administrative support within the LGBTQ community, he said.

According to Danzer, 40 percent of the job responsibility of the Assistant Dean of Students for LGBT Life would be advising Haven, and another 35 percent would be coordinating Haven programming and facilitating collaboration with other groups.

“Under Matt Carcela’s job position, ‘advise Haven’ is not there. He is going above and beyond his job,” Danzer said. “People pick up the slack, but it inevitably falls short.”

Danzer emphasized that faculty advisors are very beneficial for groups like Haven.

“All of these [organizations that receive by-line funding] have a considerable amount of money to spend. [Advisors help] to ensure that the money is spent responsibly, that these organizations are run and maintained properly with the support they need,” Danzer said.

The assistant dean position has largely remained vacant since the last advisor left in 2004, said John Connelly grad, former executive director of Haven.

“In fall 2004, we severed ties with our longtime advisor, who subsequently left the University. It has essentially been since this time that Haven has been without a full-time advisor … with the exception of the 2006-07 academic year, when an advisor was hired, only to quickly leave,” Connelly said in an email.

During this time without an advisor, others have taken on extra responsibilities to compensate for the lack of administrative support, Danzer said. The additional work has made it increasingly difficult for the group to function effectively, he added.

For example, the group has struggled to complete byline funding applications and other administrative tasks without the guidance of an advisor, according to Nick Chartrain ’13, Haven treasurer.

“It’s impacted our programming in that ,instead of having 100 percent of our focus behind events and reaching out to the Cornell community, we’ve had to [do] many other things that we wouldn’t have to do if the administration had hired an advisor,” Chartrain said.

The extra work has especially burdened those who served as Haven’s president, Danzer said.

“For the last two years, [Haven] has not been able to keep a president for more than one semester because the responsibilities that are forced onto the president are so large that they are burned out,” Danzer said.

Eugene Hunter ’11, former Haven president, echoed Danzer’s sentiments. Hunter stressed the need for an advisor to serve as the backbone of the group. Because Haven acts as an umbrella organization for many smaller student groups, it must support the specific needs of each. Without an advisor, effectively addressing a diversity of needs becomes difficult, Hunter said.

“I was burned out after a semester because of the time commitment. [Haven’s goals] are very far reaching, and trying to service all the divisions within the community takes up a lot of time and effort,” Hunter said.

According to Danzer, the LGBT Resource Center is supposed to have a director, an advisor for Haven, and an administrative assistant — all funded by the University. At the moment, only the directorial position is filled, Danzer said.

Although Connelly questioned administrative treatment of Haven in contrast to other large byline-funded student organizations, he said he does not believe that the little attention applied toward finding a new advisor for Haven derives from apathy toward the LGBTQ community.

“I think the administration is often mired in inter-office politics; no one wants to call out a colleague, or even a subordinate, to say that sometimes what the students want is what is right — regardless of whether or not you agree,” Connelly said.

Still, Connelly expressed frustration toward the lack of administrative attention to the issues resulting from the absence of an advisor for so long.

“[Given] the fact that the Haven advisor position has been vacant so long and what was once three positions has been consolidated under one person, it is hard to not to become jaded and question the motivations of those in power,” Connelly said.

Whereas past student leaders in Haven might have hesitated to voice organizational difficulties, Connelly said Resolution 86 has created a public voice for Haven and the broader LGBTQ community.

“I hope that it serves as a clarion call to the entire Student Assembly and campus community to demand that the University more fully support our organization and community,” Connelly said.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh