Following a series of homophobic incidents on the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985, the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns was established as an administrative center in the Office of Student Affairs. Later renamed after the notorious riots in New York, the Stonewall Center has provided the campus and surrounding community with cultural and educational programming through speakers, films, video and book library, Speakers Bureau on LGBTQ issues, referrals and support, advocacy and community outreach.
The records of the Stonewall Center include documentation of day to day operations, including phone logs, memos, and budget information, as well as posters and press releases for events, publications, campus and external reports, training manuals, surveys, newspaper clippings, and ephemera such as banners, tee-shirts, and buttons.
Background on Stonewall Center
Founded by Felice Yeskel in 1985 to offer support for gay and lesbian students at UMass Amherst, the Stonewall Center was only the third organization of its kind in an American university. In response to a series of homophobic incidents on campus, Yeskel organized the Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns within the university’s Office of Student Affairs, renaming it the Stonewall Center: A Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Educational Resource Center in 1995. There are now over 150 similar centers at U.S. and Canadian universities.
The Stonewall Center offers a variety of services to the UMass and Five College community: educational programming, LGBTQ ally training, a Speakers Bureau, an extensive library, advocacy for LGBTQ students, and a forum for events and visiting speakers. Throughout its first three decades, the Center maintained a broad library of material for LGBTQ students, ranging from health pamphlets to novels and academic journals. Stonewall staff offered courses in a range of subjects as well, and they conducted several research projects to better understand the needs of the UMass community, primarily through a series of surveys and questionnaires. Many of these surveys centered on residential life, with the aim of providing Resident Advisors in the dormitories with tools and guidance to solve disputes.
The Stonewall Center has also served as a social center for the UMass campus and Five College community, hosting a wide range of events. The Center has invited many dozens of speakers to campus since the 1980s, ranging from comedians to poets to academics, attracting a wide audience. As a prominent presence on the University of Massachusetts campus for three decades, the Center continues to pursue its mission of community outreach, education, and support for gay and straight students.
Beginning in its earliest days, the Stonewall Center kept detailed records of its daily operations, maintaining careful logs of both its mundane activities (phone logs, visitor sign-in books, and memos) and its innovative efforts in outreach and education. From the minutes of meetings, to fliers, posters, and banners publicizing its events, financial records, and even stickers and t-shirts, these records provide a rich perspective on the experience of LGBTQ students at the university and the system built to support them.
It is clear that the people running the Stonewall Center placed a great value on community participation and feedback. Yeskel, the Center’s founder, dedicated 20 years to making it a safe place for students at a time when anti-gay incidents were common. Other people working at the Center understood that the sensitivities and personal nature of the issues they handled. Given their critical role in offering resources and much-needed support, the Center emphasized the importance of outreach, both within the university and to the greater Pioneer Valley community, and they relied on research to assess the atmosphere of the UMass campus and to gather feedback on their many programs.
Gift of the Stonewall Center, Dec. 2005.
Processed by Rebecca Tran and Sarah Goldstein, Jan. 2012.
Cite as: Stonewall Center Records (RG 30/2/6). Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.
- Gay college students--Massachusetts
- Gays--Services for
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns
- Stonewall Center
- Yeskel, Felice