Stonewall Resource Center Anniversary

Celebrating 30 Years of LGBTQ Resources at Grinnell.

Nov. 21, 2016 — Students at Grinnell tend not to see or experience more than four years of the College’s history. That makes it difficult to see the progress Grinnell has made in many areas and was one of several reasons the College invited alumni back to campus to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall Resource Center. Alumni from the 1980s through the 2000s gave current students a glimpse into the beginning of the SRC and its evolution, and the present leaders of the center were able to show that they have maintained the organization’s mission and momentum. The celebration brought back more than 20 alumni from the past three decades and featured a number of casual and more formal opportunities for the alumni to interact with current students.

Chris Wilde ’88 led a panel of four other alumni — Erica/Frank Ferguson ’90, Sarah Cornell ’97, Lester Alemán ’07, and Jarrett Joubert ’12 — who experienced the many iterations of the Stonewall Resource Center over its 30-year history. In April 1986, a student-led protest in response to a series of acts of homophobic vandalism provided the impetus for the College’s administration to create a center for LGBTQ students. Initially, it was called the Human Resource Center and then the Human/Gay Resource Center. In 1991 it took the name of the 1969 New York riots that are such a touchstone for queer history in America and became the Stonewall Resource Center.

Just like the name, the location of the center changed over the years. First housed in the now gone and mostly forgotten Younker Health Center building, the center moved several times, including spending a year in the then new Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center in 2007, before settling in the basement of Younker Hall.

Many students who come to Grinnell today — particularly those from more socially progressive urban centers — have limited experience with the kind of homophobia LGBTQ students faced on Grinnell’s campus in the ‘80s. One panelist brought in signs that students had posted on campus denouncing queer students at the time.

Since that era, some changes have been swift and others more incremental. The College that had experienced the vandalism of a student’s AIDS-related art in 1986 hosted one of the first exhibitions of panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt only a few years later. Grinnell began its discussion of gender neutral housing and bathrooms—a charge led by Alemán — a full decade before the same discussion began in Congress. There are still hurdles to be overcome, but the current student leaders of SRC keep advancing the cause and pushing for change.