URI names local resident to head programs for gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons
KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 20, 2001 -- A University of Rhode Island housing official with a lengthy record of volunteer service to students across the University and a passion for social justice has been named to head programs and services for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
It is the first such appointment in URI history.
Andrew Winters, of West Kingston, an assistant director of Housing and Residential Life for residence education for the past seven years, is respected across campus for helping to create a better URI community, particularly for those students who feel isolated because of their race or sexual orientation, according to Thomas R. Dougan, interim Vice President for Student Affairs, to whom Winters will report.
Winters one-year appointment took effect July 1. Dougan said the one-year appointment will give Winters and the University a chance to explore various ways to address issues that affect students and to map out permanent strategies and programs.
"If we look at other campuses our size, such as the University of New Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts, we are way behind. Each of those schools has full-time staff to oversee such programs.
"Our staff members in Student Life tell us that our gay and lesbian students are the most disenfranchised on campus, and that they are the most likely to leave campus because of harassment and threats. This is a first ste
p in trying to make sure that all of our students feel a part of our community," Dougan said.
Winters, who is openly gay, says that gay role modeling and mentoring are critical parts of the Universitys commitment to diversity.
Last April, several hundred URI students held a vigil to denounce all forms of hate crimes on the Kingston campus following an attack by three men on a gay student. No one has been arrested in connection with the incident. The student was a member of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Society (GLASS) at URI, which worked with Winters to arrange a lecture by Beth Loffreda, a University of Wyoming professor and author of losing matt shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay murder.
In the spring 1999, when a former fraternity house was being renovated to become a residential life facility that would house a diverse group of students, the building was defaced with anti-gay graffiti.
As assistant to Vice President Dougan, Winters will help develop and implement student support services and programs; assist in advancing the diversity education initiatives for the Division of Student Affairs; initiate and maintain a productive liaison with the Multicultural Center and work with the staff of Housing and Residential Life in the development and implementation of diversity education in on-campus residences.
Winters previously worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champagne in both its Division of Housing and as a special assistant to the associate chancellor from 1990 to 1993. He earned his bachelor of science in education from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and his master of science in education and humanistic psychology from Marywood College in Scranton.
At URI, he has taken a leadership role for oversight of all staff in the Office of Housing and Residential Life. He developed all educational components of the day-to-day work involved in running the URI housing operation, and has worked with many URI departments and initiatives relating to diversity. In honor of his work, Winters received the URI Multicultural Center Award for Staff and Administrative Excellence last year.
"I am tremendously excited about the new position, because I like to build upon the notion that there should be important interplay between education, advocacy and support functions," said Winters.
At Illinois, he founded the largest gay and lesbian students, faculty and staff organization in the country at the University of Illinois.
"I love it here at URI," he said. "This campus, despite its problems, has a way of looking at important problems and addressing them."
A runner who loves football, basketball and the outdoors, Winters was the lead person in developing URIs Rainbow Diversity House, a Residential Life facility for students interested in living in a diverse environment and who want to focus on social justice issues.
Winters has already run a needs assessment with gay and lesbian students during a recent social event. "We want them to have a fuller experience on campus and not face the isolation that they have felt in the past," Winters said.
"Our culture has evolved a little bit; gays and lesbians have been seen on Oprah and Ellen (Degeneres) is a star. Yet there remain attitudes that are dangerous to people with differences.
"The more we welcome all members of our community, the more we will be able to figure out solutions when the going gets a little tough."
Those who wish to may contact Winters at 874-2894 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Information: Tom Dougan 401-874-2427, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116