Ransdell hosts dinner for LGTBQ students

President Gary Ransdell embraces Gilbert Hall Director Samantha Hartman during a casual dinner for faculty, staff and students who are part of the WKU LGBTQ community at the Kentucky Museum on Monday. During the gathering, Ransdell addressed concerns about gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and emphasized the importance of each student feeling included in the WKU community. Jennifer King/HERALD

Lashana Harney

About 120 students dined with President Gary Ransdell in the Kentucky Room in the Kentucky Building on Monday as a part of a special dinner aimed at LGBTQ students.  

Students sat at tables draped in white tablecloths as they dined on tacos while listening to Ransdell speak about how he wants to ensure WKU is inclusive of the LGBTQ community. 

Ransdell hosted the event because he said he was getting a sense that some students did not feel welcome on campus.

“The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to send a signal that every student on this campus is important and equal, and there is no room anywhere on this campus for anyone to make anyone else feel uncomfortable,” Ransdell said. 

Ransdell approached the Student Identity Outreach, an organization that supports LGBTQ students, with the intention of reaching out to the LGBTQ campus community.

“The president came to us and said that he would like to express his support to the LGBTQ community and he wanted them to know that administration was there to support and embrace the LGBTQ community,” said SIO co-president and Scottsville senior Andrew Salman. 

Ransdell said this was the first event he hosted that was targeted to the LGBTQ community on campus and emphasized the importance of inclusion.

“It’s important that every student on this campus feels welcomed, embraced and important,” Ransdell said.

Leitchfield junior Matt Aronhalt said he feels welcome on campus as a part of the LGBTQ community, and Ransdell’s gesture was sincere.

“I thought it was a very generous thing for him to do, to invite us all here,” said Aronhalt.

Salman said SIO assembled the invitee list and marketed the event through social media and word of mouth. The WKU administration handled the logistics of the event. 

Salman said it was important that Ransdell opened up to the LGBTQ community.

“I think that it is a huge step in visibility of the administration’s support for the LGBTQ students, faculty and staff,” Salman said.

Faculty and staff talked to the students about how their doors are always open and promoted courses that target gender and sexuality studies. 

Salman said the dinner exceeded his expectations. 

“For about 120 people to show up is just amazing to me,” said Salman. 

Ransdell said he wants to ensure all students are welcome on campus and he thinks this dinner helped achieve that goal.

“I think the message was sent that this is a campus for everybody,” he said.