If you've ever heard laughter or loud music emanating from the corridors on the fifth floor of the Viking Union, it's nothing to be afraid of. It's probably just the Resources and Outreach Programs.
The eight offices that make up the ROP are the Women's Center, the Legal Information Center, the Sexual Awareness Center, the Drug Information Center, the Veteran's Outreach Center, the Environmental Center, the Social Issues Resource Center, and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance.
The employees in these offices put on events around campus and are also available to help students in whatever way they can, ROP director Kristina Mader said.
“We're staffed by students, so we understand the issues students are going through,” Mader said.
Students can come in to ROP offices any time without making an appointment, Mader said.
“I had someone come in here today to do homework because it was the only place she could find that was quiet,” LGBTA coordinator Melissa Derry said.
The LGBTA is the longest-running office in the ROP, started in 1969 and recognized as an AS organization in 1984, Derry said.
The LGBTA kicks off the year's events with the Ice Cream Social at 7 p.m., Oct. 9 in the VU Multipurpose Room.
“There's free Mallard's Ice Cream,” Derry said. “And everyone likes that, regardless of sexual orientation.”
If that wasn't enough, the LGBTA will also be bringing the Guess a Straight Person Panel to each of the dorms this fall, Derry said. First, participants must guess the sexuality of individuals in a panel based just on appearance. Then, they ask the panel a series of questions to guess their sexuality. The purpose of the event is to breakdown stereotypes about sexuality, Derry said.
“I participated in a couple of them last year and they were really fun,” Derry said. “Lots of laughs.”
The LGBTA is always accepting ideas for events from students, Derry said.
“I really want people to come in with their own ideas for programming,” Derry said. “I want people to feel like they have a say in what happens with their dollars.”
The Women's Center will have its kick-off meeting to plan events for this year on Oct. 11 in VU 426, co-coordinator Jessica Sele said. The Women's Center also plans to bring back Christa Bell, a spoken word poet from Seattle, for a workshop this fall.
“Hopefully we'll do stuff that focuses on groups that are marginalized from the mainstream feminist movement,” Sele said.
“Labyrinth,” the Women's Center's literary journal, is also accepting submissions of artwork, poetry and stories, Sele said.
“I think [the WC is] a great place to come if someone's having a problem, but doesn't necessarily want to take any action, and just wants to talk about it,” Sele said.
The Sexual Awareness Center will start the year with its annual “Speaks” event on Nov. 13 with returning speaker River Huston giving a lecture called Sex 101: The Greatest Sex of Your Life with Yourself or Others, Sexual Awareness Center coordinator Janette Casolary said.
“It's a misconception that our office is just about people who are sexually active with someone else,” Casolary said. “And we really want to make it known that we are focusing on all forms of sexuality, whether that includes abstinence or having a relationship with yourself or someone else.”
Just around the corner from the Sexual Awareness Center is the Legal Information Center.
“We don't give legal advice,” office coordinator Laura L.Cable said. “But we offer resources on campus and off campus if students have questions about legal problems.”
Some of the resources the Legal Information Center offers are a database of lawyers throughout Whatcom County and unofficial advising for students considering law school, Cable said.
The Legal Information Center will be hosting a workshop for students interested in law school with political science professor Dr. Paul Chen on Oct. 18, Cable said. The Law School Public Policy Info Fair will take place on Nov.14 in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room, and will feature representatives from more than 35 law schools.
Last but not least is “Busted,” a collaboration between the L.I.C. and the Drug Information Center, will take place on Nov. 29.
“It's about how to know your rights as far as encounters with the police,” Cable said. “Especially when it comes to M.I.P.'s and D.U.I.'s.”
The Drug Information Center is also available for accurate, unbiased, and confidential information about health and drug use, Cable said.
The Veteran's Outreach Center provides resources for the hundreds of student veterans on campus, coordinator Robert Marshall said.
“I think people associate the term ‘veteran' with people who have been in battle,” Marshall said. “But if you're in the military, you're a veteran.”
Marshall has been in the Air Force Reserves for almost six years and has served overseas.
“[Military service is] rewarding and stressful at the same time,” Marshall said. “But my office is here to help out with that stress.”
The Social Issues Resource Center is planning some educational events on immigration, coordinators Devin Majkut and Sarah Tran said.
“Another one of the big goals for this year is for the office itself and for our events to really be a safe space for people,” Majkut said.
The newest addition to the ROP this year is the Environmental Center, located in VU 424. The Environmental Center was established in 1971 and joined the AS in 1976, co-coordinator Casey Clark said. Clark said he plans to start holding meetings every Thursday, and to bring some guest lecturers to campus this fall.
As much as the ROP may seem like a permanent fixture in the Associated Students, it hasn't always been so. Jesse Raymond, the graphic design coordinator at the AS Publicity Center, was coordinator of the LGBTA during the 2004 to 2005 school year.
“The board at the time had a very split personality as to what they felt was in the best interest of Western students as a whole,” Raymond said. “Unfortunately it became kind of a liberal versus conservative battle, with the conservatives as a group kind of wanting to not spend as much money on getting students of minority status resources and outreach.”
A few members of the board proposed consolidating several offices into one, Raymond said.
“They wanted to make the Veteran's Outreach Center, the Drug Information Center, the Legal Information Center, and the Sexual Awareness Center all one office, and have one to two employees running it,” Raymond said. “Because apparently the drug-addicted veterans who have sexual health questions and legal issues would all know exactly where to go.”
The LGBTA and the Women's Center were protected by the American Civil Liberties Union, so there was no attempt to consolidate either office, Raymond said.
While the intention of the consolidation was to save money, Raymond said, getting rid of ROP offices was not in the best interests of Western students, and the plan fell through.
“There was such a great uproar of student concern of losing those resources,” Raymond said.
Neither Raymond nor Mader predict that such a thing could happen to the ROP again.
“I think it's important to have an organization on campus that is willing to reach out to students who are swept under the rug when it comes to rights and general social interactions in a big, social setting like a college campus,” Raymond said. “It provides a safe space for expression and seeking guidance.”