LGBT position in ASI ‘needed’ for campus representation
April 14, 2009
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After the first year of the establishment of the secretary of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) affairs position, many agree that Cal State Long Beach needs to keep the appointment alive.
Matthew Bates is the current and first secretary of LGBT affairs and host of LGBT Diversity Week. The position is part of Associated Students Inc.
Despite this last year being a success for the new secretary, issues may arise in the future in keeping the position filled.
“[We need to] make sure that this position stays a part of the ASI structure,” said Matt Cabrera, the Student Resource Center LGBT coordinator. “Some students might not feel called to apply and maintain the position. It’s definitely needed to have a secretary representative who focuses on the LGBT community.”
Bates said he will not return for a second year in ASI due to his studies but said he is happy to have had this learning experience.
Bates is an interior architectural design major, and a diligent art student. Until his term ends, he is splitting his time between studying and working for ASI.
“I have so much of a commitment towards my school,” Bates said. “My design major is sort of intense; I mean, if I could I would give all my time to ASI, but I have to remember I’m a student first.”
Bates transferred to CSULB last year from Pasadena City College and joined Delta Lambda Psi, a fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, where he began volunteering and heading committees for the LGBT Resource Center.
Every year, the center puts on three large-scale events: Coming Out Week in the fall, LGBT Diversity Week in the spring and the Lavender Graduation in May.
The position for secretary of LGBT Affairs was created last year when ASI President Erin Swetland was elected. Bates applied for the position, and because he was already overseeing many of the LGBT activities on campus, he became the first LGBT representative to work with ASI.
“[He] is a very hardworking, passionate and caring individual who is making a difference on campus,” Swetland said in an e-mail. “Matt has been a great liaison this year and has taken the lead on programming several campus-wide events to serve the student body.”
Bates began working with Swetland last fall, which is also when he hosted his first discussion panel about resources available to LGBT students. He spoke in detail about his position in representing LGBT on campus, and asked other LGBT students what their own opinions were about the group’s presence on campus. In October, he held a discussion where he invited two speakers — one for, and the other against, Proposition 8.
“Last semester was a very political time for our nation, and that proposition was very political for our state, especially for the LGBT community,” Cabrera said. “His activism was able to bring [gay rights] awareness onto campus through that forum.”
Bates is scheduled to host another public forum for LGBTQIA (Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Ally) Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Beach Auditorium. The event is part of LGBT Diversity Week, held from April 13-16. The panel will discuss what the campus is doing to serve the needs of LGBT students, what those needs are, and what the students, faculty and staff can do to help satisfy those needs.
Steven Pham, a senior theater arts major, works at the LGBT Resource Center on campus and called the position “very important.”
“It took a really long time to come up with it, [and even though] we’re a little bit underrepresented it’s good that we are now on student government,” Pham said.
Cindy Chiang, 21, who graduated from CSULB last year with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, said the LGBT community will benefit greatly from this position in the long run.
“Everyone else has their own organization, so I guess it’s only appropriate [that the LGBT community has one too],” Chiang said.
Jennifer Galindo, a junior accounting major, said ASI is something all people should be a part of.
“This [position] can give LGBT freshmen an opportunity to get more involved [on campus],” Galindo said.
Bates said he hopes the next ASI president is as welcoming as Swetland has been to this year’s secretaries.
“It was definitely nice that the school and ASI felt the need to hear the voices of the LGBT student community,” Bates said. “They are a part of campus, and an important part of student diversity.”
Kendra Ablaza contributed to this article.