Directors of social justice centers have a jam-packed year in store


Ziyi Liu

Hidden Dores held a call to action and petition delivery to Chancellor Zeppos Nov. 16, 2015. (Ziyi Liu)

Alejandro Monzon

It’s no secret that social justice is a common theme on Vanderbilt’s campus this year. The Hustler sat down with a few of the directors of the offices included in the Social Justice and Identity cluster to discuss their recent accomplishments and plans for the coming year.

The Black Cultural Center

Director: Dr. Frank Dobson

Dr. Frank Dobson speaks on Day Two of the Vanderbilt Impact Symposium at Langford Auditorium March 17, 2015.
Dr. Frank Dobson speaks on Day Two of the Vanderbilt Impact Symposium at Langford Auditorium March 17, 2015.

The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center represents and promotes racial diversity and intercultural experience across campus. As described by Dr. Dobson, the BCC’s main objective is threefold: student leadership and development, cultural education and community service and outreach.

“This year is really a year about legacy,” said Dobson, who is leaving the BCC soon to focus on his new position as Associate Dean of Students in the Social Justice and Identity cluster.

One key area of focus will be reflecting on Vanderbilt’s past regarding issues around race.

“There has been a lot of talk about Perry Wallace and Strong Inside,” Dobson said.

This year will have a strong connection to the legacy of Perry Wallace, the man who broke the athletic color barrier not only at Vanderbilt but also in the SEC by becoming the first Black varsity basketball player in 1967.

“It’s really important, particularly given the history of Nashville in respect to race relations, that the Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt reach out into the African-American community,” Dobson said.

The BCC will also be sponsoring a Dia de la Raza — a celebration of Hispanic Culture — event on Oct. 10. An art exhibit, coming to Vanderbilt on Sept. 23, will feature work by James Threalkill, a former Vanderbilt football player turned artist.

The Office of LGBTQI Life

Director: Chris Purcell

Chris Purcell, Director of the Office of LGBTQI Life

The Office of LGBTQI Life, housed in the K.C. Potter Center, is a resource and advocate for both those who fall within and between the letters of LGBTQI and those who don’t. 

The mission of the LGBTQI Life Office isn’t just to make individuals feel comfortable within its walls, but to help the entire Vanderbilt community become more inclusive and knowledgeable about LGBTQI life. Through holding multiple presentations and workshops per week, such as P.R.I.D.E Training, Straight Facts about LGBTQI LIFE and Speak Out, the Office has been able to spread its message and accomplish great things. Over the summer, leaders from the Office played a large role in making transgender operations covered on the student health insurance plan.  

For the first time this year, there are pilot programs in place for gender neutral housing in Commons houses, including gender-neutral and co-ed floors.

This year, a major goal for the Office is the addition of pronouns on class rosters so professors and classmates may address one another according to how they identify.

Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center

Director: Dr. Rory Dicker

Being slightly short-staffed doesn’t seem to phase the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, nor its director. With the hiring of a second program coordinator on her agenda, Dr. Rory Dicker is ready to continue living and performing the slogan of the center: “Celebrating Women, Empowering All.” She wants people to know that the Women’s Center is not for crisis response, and that there doesn’t need to be something wrong for people to come in and learn.

Rory Dicker, Director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center

“We welcome people coming in anytime,” Dicker said.

Coming up, the Women’s Center will be hosting a series in October on “Women in Politics”. But what is perhaps at the heart of the Women’s Center mission is the idea and importance of healthy sexuality. The center offers programming for men as well and will be partnering with other offices in the Dean of Students and faculty members to put on a masculinity series beginning in October.

“The work we do is really wide-ranging,” Dicker said.
A lot of what the Center offers is done via collaboration with other organization such as VUceptors, Greek Life and Residential Staff. One of the most popular programs sponsored by the Women’s Center is “Let’s talk about Sex, Vandy” among other sex ed programs.