The Prism Center for Queer and Trans Life has been in the planning stages since June of 2021, and will likely be fully operating in the fall of 2022.
In the spring of 20, President Laurie Patton invited faculty, staff and students to join a task force exploring the creation of a center for queer and trans students, after the SGA expressed a need for more support for the queer and trans community.
The task force, which included significant representation of queer and trans individuals, met once a month throughout the 2020–2021 school year. They considered the strengths and weaknesses of such centers at other institutions and discussed how Middlebury’s center would function.
In spring 2021, they submitted their proposal to the Senior Leadership Group, and Patton ultimately announced plans for the center in an email to the Middlebury community in June.
“One of the things about the mission that we crafted for the Prism Center is affirming identity, but in a way that also centers social justice and creates space for the kind of critical conversations that lead to social change,” Renee Wells, director of education for equity and inclusion, said.
The task force did not want the center to be named by the LGBTQ+ acronym, as it inherently excludes some identities and places them under the label of “+.” They also did not want a name that centered on gender and sexuality, as it might be confused with the Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies academic department.
“Prisms reflect light in a way that forms a rainbow,” Wells said. “There’s a lot of facets to identity, and it just seemed to capture a lot of pieces that represented the intersectional way we wanted to think about and support students without connecting it to a specific set of identities that wouldn’t necessarily reflect everybody.”
Janae Due, assistant director of the Anderson Freeman Center (AFC) will be the primary organizer of the Prism Center. Due was hired, after a national search over the summer for someone who would focus on support for queer and trans students. Wells expects that, similar to the AFC, there will also be student workers in the center.
Currently, the Prism Center is in the process of getting approval for renovations for 23 Adirondack View, where it will be housed. They have yet to map out exact events, but according to Wells, the focus of the center is on community building.
“The main focus is going to be thinking on ways to help folks come together and build community, particularly for a population where you don’t necessarily know a person is a member of the community just by looking at them, so it can be hard for people to find each other and find a sense of community,” Wells said.
Wells predicts that there will be events during orientation, as well as ongoing community building events such as movie nights.