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posted Friday, October 8, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 41
Seattle Central president to campus: 'LGBT students are valued and welcome'
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Seattle Central president to campus: 'LGBT students are valued and welcome'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Following the tragic death of two college students that were perceived or identified as Gay, Dr. Paul Killpatrick, president of Seattle Central Community College, wrote a letter to the community expressing his commitment and responsibility to create a safe learning environment for all students - specifically those that identify as LGBT.

'Lest you believe this is 'something that happens on other campuses,' you should be aware that a member of Seattle Central's Triangle Club committed suicide last year,' Dr. Killpatrick wrote in an October 4 letter sent to students and faculty alike. 'Here on Capitol Hill - the heart of Seattle's LGBT community - we may believe that harassment of LGBT students and staff does not happen. But faculty and staff routinely talk to LGBT students who report they do not feel safe.'

The Triangle Club is Seattle Central's LGBT social club. According to Laura Mansfield, Seattle Central director of communications, the club members' suicide remains surrounded in mystery. 'He stopped participating in Triangle Club's activities a few months before his death, and he was not well-known,' she said. 'We tried to be careful not to link the student's death to any particular cause. The truth is, we simply don't know. However, we all know it's not easy to be a young Gay man, even in Seattle.'

According to Campus Pride, 25% of LGBT staff, faculty, and students reported harassment in a just-released survey. Eighty-three percent identified sexual identity as the basis of the harassment.

Dr. Killpatrick said, 'As an institution, we are looking at ways we can be more supportive of our campus LGBT community.'

Mansfield told SGN that Seattle Central has counselors on hand, which would be the preferred first stop for a suicidal student. 'Not every student feels safe talking with a counselor, so really, the first line of defense is faculty,' she said. 'Although they are not mental health professionals, they are able to send the student in the right direction. We don't have caretakers and doctors under our roof.'

Mansfield said that she is unaware of any recent fights or Gay-bashing incidents. She admits that there is no designated safe zone training for LGBT students, and says, 'I think it's time we did some things to improve in the areas we are lacking. We want this to be a safe community - it is one of our greatest values.'

Killpatrick asked students and faculty to join him in making the campus a place where everyone feels safe and accepted. 'To our LGBT students, staff, and faculty, please know that you are valued and welcome at Seattle Central,' he said. 'If you are a student who feels threatened, please speak to a counselor in your division. Faculty and staff should speak to their supervisor or a human resources representative. Harassment or bullying will not be tolerated on our campus.'

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