New LGBT Center director aims to solidify academic programming

Since taking over as the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center’s new director at the beginning of the year, Tom Bourdon has focused on establishing an academic program dedicated to queer studies and increasing LGBT awareness on campus.

Bourdon has been the acting director of the center since September, succeeding previous director Dona Yarbrough. He served as the assistant director of UCLA’s LGBT Center and as the program administrator of New York University’s LGBT Office before accepting his current position at Tufts.

“I’m just so impressed with everything that’s been happening here at Tufts,” Bourdon told the Daily. “I see that the Tufts students are extremely smart and invested in supporting and strengthening the community.

“They’re not afraid to ask for things,” he continued. “They’ll ask or demand [of] upper-level administrators [things] such as including gender identity and expression in our non-discrimination policies [and] offering more courses that will deal with queer theory, queer issues or social justice in general.”

Yarbrough taught the class “Introduction to Queer Theory” while she was director. One of the obstacles Bourdon sees facing the LGBT community at Tufts is the lack of a queer studies program. While a number of courses deal with queer issues, no unifying program exists.

“One thing that I know is really important and students are having real difficulty with is seeing sexuality integrated more into the curriculum, meaning courses that are specific to queer issues and courses in general that deal with sexuality but also touch upon LGBT topics,” Bourdon said. “I’m hearing students say there’s not much of that, and they’ve been asking for more, and they want more, and they’re not seeing more. I’m seeing that as a struggle for a lot of students and something that I would like to work on to help resolve.”

Senior Sofia Nelson, a student employee at the LGBT Center, said Bourdon is confronting important issues. “Tom is committed to trying to change the status of queer studies,” said Nelson, who has worked at the LGBT Center since 2005. She expressed concern that Tufts may lose prospective students if it does not make progress toward establishing a formal program.

Bourdon plans to enhance Queer Peers, a student-run group within the LGBT Center that provides support to students on campus. He also expressed a desire to focus on support and programming by providing Safe Zone training to Tufts students. This is aimed at educating students on ways to prevent discrimination. Bourdon further hopes to work closely with Team Q, a group of students within the LGBT Center who are trained to talk about their experiences at Tufts.

In order to facilitate campus outreach, Bourdon intends to work closely with the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), which traditionally coordinates social programming.

“Tom has been very open to collaboration with [the] Queer Straight Alliance. Even outside of planning and organization, he’s fun just to talk to and hang out with,” said sophomore Tom Calahan, a co-coordinator for QSA.

The LGBT Center and the QSA recently collaborated for a celebration of the 20th-Annual National Coming Out Day last month. Bourdon, along with Associate Dean of Students Marisel Perez and Tufts Community Union President Duncan Pickard, spoke at the campus center during the event. Bourdon agreed to have the LGBT Center pay for the 50 shirts that were given out at the event, according to Nelson.

Bourdon noted that the shirts were a success and that he has seen students wearing them around campus since.

“I see my role as being here to continue to strengthen the community, offer support on an individual level, act as advocate for the community and to work on educating the entire campus,” Bourdon said.