According to surveys, letters, and notes in the Queer Resource Center’s archives, queer identities and relationships were either clandestine or isolated until the early 1970’s when an informal group of students began meeting at Monsour Counseling Center. The group called themselves the “Gay Student Union” (GSU). Their “meetings” were discussion-based, though they eventually began organizing social events as well. Around 1978 a feminist, women-only group “Feminists Against Repression” (FAR) began organizing against sexism.
There was much overlap as well as collaboration between FAR and the GSU in terms of organizing and members. Between 1981 and 1982, due to protests from lesbian students, the Gay Student Union changed its name to the Lesbian and Gay Student Union (LGSU). In 1983 there were mixed gender meetings of the LGSU as well as separate meetings of the LSU and GSU, some taking place in Mounsour and some in the Chicano Studies Center until 1984 when the LSU meetings began to be held in the Women’s Union (WU). Also in 1983, LGSU wrote and self-published a publication called the “Lavender Letters.” Around 1986, a group of Scripps students founded the “Pink Triangle Group” which aimed to be more political than LGSU.
Meanwhile, the LGSU proposed having a center, and in 1993 the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Resource Center (LGBRC), also known as “The Closet” opened in Walker Lounge at Pomona College. It had a student board and a steering committee which included faculty and staff from the 5C’s. In October 1995 the LGBRC officially changed its name to the Queer Resource Center (QRC), also known as “The Center.”
In 1997, Pomona College hired Dave Swenson as the new Associate Director of the Smith Campus Center. Swenson developed a strong working relationship with students from the QRC and in 1999 he formally became the advisor to the QRC, a position he would maintain until he left the college in 2004. In 2001 the QRC began the Queer, Questioning and Allied Mentor Program (QQAMP), a program which pairs mentors and mentees to provide support and informed guidance on any queer-related issues. Because of the significant increase of activity in the QRC, Pomona College created a Graduate Assistant position in 2002. Amy DeLorenzo, a graduate student at the Claremont Graduate University, assumed the role of Graduate Assistant (GA) in 2002 and held the position for almost two years. Janelle Wilson was then hired as the GA. When Swenson left Pomona in 2004, Joel Perez took his place and continued the advising of the QRC. Joel worked closely with one of the Student Coordinators, Josh Nelson. Upon his graduation, Josh Nelson was hired as a Campus Life Coordinator by the Office of Campus Life with the understanding that half of his position would be as Coordinator of the QRC.
In 2006 the QRC moved to its present location in Walton Commons at Pomona College. Josh Nelson serving as a half-time Coordinator signaled the first formal role a staff person was given for the QRC. Josh held this position until the Spring of 2008 along with GA Josh Harris. That year, the new Dean of Students, Miriam Feldblum, made some adjustments to the organization of the Student Affairs Department. First, a new position was created, Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership. This person would assume supervisory responsibility of both the QRC and the AARC. This is an important development because the QRC finally found a permanent home and was no longer an ad hoc responsibility. The new Associate Dean of Students, Daren Mooko, hired Shakina Nayfack as the new half-time Coordinator and Adriana di Bartolo was hired as the new GA.
In the fall of 2009 Adriana di Bartolo took position as the half-time Coordinator and in the Spring of 2010 the Student Deans of The Claremont Colleges agreed to pilot a full-time Coordinator for the 2010–2011 year. Adriana continued on in the role as full-time Coordinator along with GA Marina Wood. In the Spring of 2011, the President’s Council of The Claremont Colleges agreed to extend the existing Queer Resource Center into a formally funded 7-college Queer Resource Center. This historic decision bolstered the QRC programming budget as well as providing funding for two full-time positions, QRC Director, Adriana di Bartolo, and QRC Program Coordinator.
In 2012, QRC staff began collecting oral histories from students, staff, faculty, and alumni of The Claremont Colleges. In the Fall of 2013, The QRC joined with the Pomona College Museum of Art for a special exhibition of our oral archives in commemoration of LGBTQ History month. In this installation, photographs, alumni surveys, quotations, and a visual display complimented exhibition of our audio files during an Art After Hours event at the Dunn Gallery. The exhibit was also displayed at the QRC during Spring 2014 semester.
Adriana di Bartolo served as the QRC Director until the fall of 2015, when she transitioned to the Dean of Students Office and then away from Claremont. Al Forbes served first as Program Coordinator, beginning in 2014, until the spring of 2016 when he became Acting Director. Al served as Interim Director for the 2016-2017 academic year while a formal search for a new director was conducted, culminating in the hiring of Jonathan Higgins. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Dr. Higgins was unable to work at the QRC as originally planned, leaving Al Forbes as the Interim Director for the summer while another formal search was conducted. In the fall of 2017, Manny Diaz was named as Interim Director and Pharalyn Robinson joined the QRC as Student Support Manager. In the spring of 2018, Manny was named QRC Director and Pharalyn was hired as Assistant Director. Manny was with the QRC until 2019. In July of 2020, Sharon Chia Claros joined the QRC as the new Assistant Dean and Director of the QRC.
We’re constantly working to expand our outreach and increase institutional support for the students, faculty, and staff of the 7Cs. It’s great to look back to see how far we’ve come, but we can’t forget how far there is to go. If you have any questions, comments, or additions to our story please send us an email and let us know!