Zemsky receives ‘Breaking the Silence’ award

A a few days after announcing she will step down as director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office, Beth Zemsky – along with Jean-Nickloaus Tretter – was awarded the 9th annual “Breaking the Silence” award.

The award was created in 1995 to honor the efforts of those who work to improve the campus climate for the GLBT community at the University.

When Zemsky was appointed the office’s director in 1993, then-University president Nils Hasselmo published a report stating the climate for the University’s GLBT community was discriminatory, and at its worst, hostile.

One of the problems Zemsky said she hoped to tackle was the “tremendous lack of safety people felt” on campus. This, she said, was accomplished by “building a GLBT network so people would feel safer.”

Zemsky said she faced one of her greatest challenges as director in 1995, when public sexual behavior in University buildings was reported. She used the spotlight placed on the GLBT community to increase communication and build a stronger connection with the University.

The program has now grown to the point where “you can walk around campus and feel like you have someone covering your back,” said Marjorie Cowmeadow, chair of the 1993 committee that appointed Zemsky as director.

Zemsky will now become coordinator of leadership and organizational effectiveness at the University’s Center for Human Resource Development, which many say is welcomed news.

“Beth has been able to provide leadership, passion and great vision. I’m excited she’ll be staying at the ‘U’ working in a more diverse role,” said Sallye McKee, associate vice provost of Multicultural and Academic Affairs.

Anthony Heryla, a University junior active in many student organizations, including the GLBT programs office, said Zemsky helped shape his college experience.

“She has provided me with the motivation to do all of the stuff I do around campus,” he said.

B. David Galt is taking Zemsky’s place as office director of GLBT programs. Galt says under Zemsky’s leadership, the office has addressed all the recommendations the University put forth in 1993.

“We will now refocus what the next steps are for the next generation (of GLBT students),” he said.

Galt said working with Zemsky helped prepare him for his new job.

“Beth is a nationally known GLBT activist,” he said. “The opportunity to work and learn from her is really going to assist me in my new post.”

Jens Krogstad welcomes comments at [email protected]