St. John’s Unveils LGBTQ+ Center’s New Home in St. John’s Hall

The center provides an open environment for queer students on campus.

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s University LGBTQ+ Center opened Sept. 30. Located in St. John’s Hall Room 216, the center provides an open and welcoming environment for queer students on campus.

The center is a “University-wide resource and research hub for students, faculty and employees,” according to the University’s website, “Its purpose is to organize, coordinate, and innovate LGBTQIA+ issues in the St. John’s University ecosystem to create and sustain an open and welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and employees.”

Founded and co-directed by Drs. Candice Roberts and Shanté Paradigm Smalls, the LGBTQ+ center is the fruition of their efforts. As the “faces of the center,” Roberts and Smalls have spent years assessing the needs of queer students that failed to be met on campus, they told The Torch. 

“In 2019, we started to want a cohesive, connected and visible LGBTQ presence on campus,” Roberts said. “We wanted to do something bigger. We wanted to do a little bit more.”

The center was officially named in Fall 2021, but did not have a home until today. “Last year was our year of trying to get our name out there and trying to do more events,” they continued. Many of the LGBTQ+ Center’s events included film screenings and gatherings in conjunction with the LGBTQ+ student organization Spectrum. 

The center not only is a space for queer students, but also is a place of employment. The center offers work-study and graduate assistantships for interested students. The positions are open to all eligible students regardless of orientation, but employees must “demonstrate knowledge (or desire to learn) of marginalized communities and historically underrepresented groups,” according to the employment listing

Sophomore undecided major Irene Barlis is an undergraduate student worker for the LGBTQ+ center. 

“I usually sit at the front desk, and if anyone needs anything they come in for any resources they need,” Barlis told The Torch at the center’s opening. Some of these needs include instructing students on the school’s chosen name policy, providing an all-gender bathroom and being a sanctuary on campus. 

“Students can do their work if they want to, or if they need a breath throughout the day. If they feel there’s anything we can add to our space, they can do that too,” Barlis continued. “I hope it keeps growing. I honestly didn’t know about it until I applied to work here, so I hope it grows and people can know about and utilize it more.” 

PICTURED: (from left to right) Irene Barlis, Dr. Shanté Paradigm Smalls and Dr. Candice Roberts
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

As for the center’s future, Dr. Roberts believes it is bright. “We’re looking forward to building something with all the St. John’s community members.” 

They shared their vision, which includes increasing their resources and research, in order to “create and innovate” a research hub for St. John’s students as well as visiting scholars. 

For more information on the LGBTQ+ Center as well as St. John’s inclusivity resources, check out their Instagram for upcoming events and ways to get involved.