Community Building: UCSC Supports Its Queer-Identified and Questioning Students

eSlug Newsletter Winter 2014

First installment in a series of articles on community building at UC Santa Cruz. Brought to you by eSlug!


“I feel really safe and supported. I owe so much to this center for giving me a community and visibility.” ~ Alma, UCSC undergraduate

UC Santa Cruz is a welcoming environment, and our reputation for being a safe and inclusive campus for queer students is well founded. Nearly one in five students identifies as gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or queer. And UCSC consistently ranks in the top 25 of the nation’s best campuses for GLBTI students (Campus Pride).

UC Santa Cruz works hard to create an inclusive community of students that feels safe for all students, no matter what their backgrounds, identities, or perspectives. An important part of the community building at UC Santa Cruz is the Cantú Queer Center.

Founded in 1997, and named for the departed and beloved sociology professor Lionel Cantú, Jr., the Cantú Queer Center has a mission to "provide an open, safe, inclusive, intercultural space, promoting education about all genders and sexualities, and empowering self-exploration of these identities."

"UCSC students describe 'the Cantú' as the one safe space for them to completely be themselves; to freely explore and express their sexualities and genders; to undo the trauma that growing up gay, bi, or trans inflicts upon so many queer youth; and to receive the support they need to succeed in academia and their lives," said Deb Abbott, Founding Director of the Center. "The Cantú Queer Center is one of the most diverse and dynamic spaces on campus; a sparkly jewel in the crown of UCSC."

The center provides programs and services to prospective students and their families, enrolled undergraduates and grad students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

Services offered by the Cantú Queer Center include:

  • UCSC’s “homo-away-from-home” — a dedicated queer-centric building at Merrill College complete with a cozy lounge, kitchen, study area, and all-gender bathroom
  • The GALA Gallery featuring exhibits of student and community artists
  • A circulating library with more than 2,500 books, zines, and films
  • A drop-in space for professional and peer support, advising, and referrals
  • Academic and work/study internships providing opportunities for leadership development and student employment
  • Home to and host of 13+ weekly queer student groups and organizations, including Familia X, Queer Students of Color, Queer Coffeehouse, Blender, Queer Grads, Queer Geeks, and Theta Pi Sigma--the nation’s first GLBTIQ all-gender frarority
  • A weekly e-newsmagazine, “QConnect” featuring upcoming events, news, academic opportunities, book reviews, student profiles, and more.
  • A comprehensive, resource-rich web site:
  • Free2pee@UCSC campaign, including a map of all-gender, accessible bathrooms across the UCSC campus.
  • Campuswide advocacy and training on GLBTIQ issues
  • Queer cultural programs for students, staff/faculty, alumni, and community throughout the academic year, culminating in the Rainbow Graduation Ceremony

Other resources on campus for queer-identified and questioning students:

  • Queer-themed, all-genders residence halls
  • Many courses that focus on sexuality-related issues and the queer perspective

For further information on the Cantú Queer Center, please contact Director Deb Abbott at or 831.459.4385.

More information on the Cantú Queer Center