By: Riley Sullivan
NORTHRIDGE—On Tuesday, April 11, the Pride Center of the University Student Union (USU) celebrated 10 years of serving the LGBTQ+ community at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
To honor this decade of service, the Pride Center hosted a timeline walkthrough, displaying the growth of the Pride Center. In the evening, there was a formal dinner for students, staff, and alumni to highlight the significance that the center has had in many peoples’ lives.
The Pride Center is one of the several resource centers available to students and staff in the USU at CSUN. It’s a safe space for Matadors to gather, equipped with gaming consoles, couches, and a large common area for a community feel. They also host inclusive events tailored to bring the LGBTQ+ community together and students can individually meet with the Pride Center Manager, Whitney Workman, to seek support or guidance.
“If anybody is struggling with something on campus or just in their personal life, about their gender, and sexual orientation, and they just want someone who can share some of like those experiences, I'm happy to meet with them,” Workman said.
In 2011, Sarina Loeb was hired to start developing resource centers serving LGBTQ+ and Veterans communities on campus. When the Pride Center opened a year later, the space was less than 500 square feet and was located in a very visible location. Loeb, who is now the USU’s assistant director for resource centers, said that creating a new space for students to feel seen, but also having the safety of a secluded space, was crucial for the well-being of the Pride Center and those who find sanctuary there.
Years later, the Pride Center moved into the Sol Center, the building that serves as the home to many of the administrative offices for the USU. The space was much larger and made it so that more students felt comfortable entering the center since it wasn’t in direct view of the sidewalk in the University Student Union. Their new location also features multiple entrances, something Loeb believes is helpful as well.
“It's that fine line of wanting to be very visible, but also recognizing that there are some folks in our community that aren't comfortable being out,” Loeb said.
According to Loeb, the university was in support of establishing the Pride Center, but accommodating a student body of nearly 40,000 people required them to serve a very diverse group. The only initial challenges were surrounding the budget and staffing numbers. Loeb recognized that compared to other schools within the California higher education system, the Pride Center at CSUN had a smaller staff.
“We’ve been fortunate that we didn’t have any pushback from the campus,” said Loeb, “When talking to colleagues that work at other universities like UCs [University of California], they have three or four professional staff running their LGBTQ+ centers and I’m one person trying to meet the needs of nearly 40,000 students.”
The Pride Center also focuses on also helping to spread LGBTQIA+ equity to other parts of CSUN. One example of this is advocating for more gender-inclusive restrooms across campus. In 2016, , requiring all single-user bathrooms in public spaces and government buildings to be labeled “all-gender” by the following year. Loeb hopes to continue educating people on and advocating for the implementation of more equitable and inclusive practices.
“I think the challenge is really advocating for institutional change. When we first started, there was very few gender-inclusive restrooms. There has been some progress in the institution, but for students who are here a short time, they may not see what they’re advocating for,” Loeb said.
With its inviting physical space, inclusive events, and continuous advocacy work around campus, the Pride Center is a place where everyone is encouraged to be themselves. Aiden Marks, a CSUN student and social media assistant for the center, highlighted the help he received from Workman in navigating his own journey and the support he has felt at the center.
“I love being here. It’s a really safe place for me,” said Marks, “It’s a place where I can go and just be myself authentically.”
Moving forward, Loeb hopes to continue to incorporate more intersectional programming within the Pride Center by connecting with other CSUN identity-based centers. The goal is create a stronger relationship amongst identity-based resource centers, including the Glenn Omatsu House, the Black House, and the Women’s Research and Resource Center.