In the years around 2000-2009, Palomar College was not a very welcoming place for LGBTQ folks. When the current Pride Center Director arrived on campus in 2006, it was rare to see any identifiably gay students and even more rare to see any same-sex couples. Many members of campus staff, faculty, and administration were not well-informed about this community. In fact, in 2004 one of the few openly gay faculty members experienced a homophobic incident in the classroom, to which the police were unsure how to respond.
In the winter of 2009, this same professor started receiving threatening postcards on campus – very explicit ones, including implicit death threats. The professor took the case to the campus police, but it was at first perceived that the police were not doing much to follow up (a perception which later changed). These postcards kept coming in, and other faculty soon came to the support of the professor. A committee was formed to address issues of hate on campus (The Pride Center Committee to Combat Hate [PC3H], originally headed by Monika Brannick, a professor in Math.) This committee began holding rallies on campus in support of the professor and to speak out against hate, particularly against those who are LGBTQ.
Simultaneously, the college’s Gay-Straight Alliance was revived and became one of the largest student clubs on campus. Given the fight for campus safety for the LGBTQ community on campus, the push for a Safe Zone began. With the cooperation and significant support of various members of the administration, a tiny little Pride Center, one small office, was established in IT-7L (a space which has now been demolished to make room for new building). That space was so crowded with students that it was frequently spilling out into the hall. With further pushing, we then secured a larger space in ST-72-74, and we gradually took over the whole southeast corner of the ST building, where we are currently housed.
With all the new building occurring on campus and the shifting of campus entities from one space to another, however, there is no guarantee that that corner will continue to be a space for the Pride Center. We continue to advocate for a larger space, designed and built just for us.
As a result of the many actions taken by PC3H, Pride Center staff and students, and supportive faculty and administration, the campus climate has changed dramatically for the better. We have carried out numerous Safe Zone trainings, including for the campus police, who are now well-versed in issues facing the LGBTQ community on campus. We have worked, in concert with the Facilities Dept., to establish all single-stall restrooms on campus as gender-neutral, greatly benefitting our transgender and gender non-conforming students. And the Pride Center is now a visible presence on campus. It is a safe space, where students can find many resources to address any challenges which might face our community. Furthermore, it is now quite common to see identifiably LGBTQ students and same-sex couples on campus. Palomar College is no longer an inhospitable campus to the LGBTQ community, and over the course of the past ten years, it has in fact developed into a place that embraces all genders and sexual orientations!
Pride Center Director