The University of Rhode Island is a community where people of all cultures, sexual orientations, and gender identities are valued and supported. URI is proud to be the home of the first free-standing Gender and Sexuality Center, providing support and education in matters of identity development, gender, and sexuality.
The university was unfortunately not always so open. The Gender and Sexuality Center stands as a result of a 2010 protest which took place in The Robert L. Carothers Library. A group of ten LGBTQ students took part in an eight day sit-in in the library’s 24 Hour Room. The students were rightfully outraged at the harassment they endured from homophobic students on campus and the general climate of intolerance LGBTQ students had to endure. This harassment went unpunished until these activists chose to take a stand against it. The protesters demanded a solution to the systemic homophobia on campus and a new LGBTQ center to replace the existing center in Adams Hall. On the eighth day of the sit-in, the university accepted their demands and plans for the Gender and Sexuality Center commenced.
Today, the Gender and Sexuality Center is situated on 19 Upper College Road at the site of the former Ruggles House. It is directed by Annie Russell, a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion for the LGBTQ community, and general force of nature. She is legendary for her dedication to social justice, an ideal promoted by this center as a whole.
The Gender and Sexuality Center is the hub of many on-campus groups and activities including free HIV testing, discussion groups, and organizations working towards student equity. Though it grew out of the efforts of a small number of students, the center now serves a large community. It is a monument to the often unheard voices of minorities, and a testament to the progress that may come from standing for justice.
For more information about the protest that gave rise to the Gender and Sexuality Center, visit the following website: