Black text that says the LGBTQA Center is now the University of Vermont Prism Center appears over a rainbow colored background.  A call to follow us on facbook and instragram and sign up for the newsletter appears at the bottom of the image.

In the spring of 2018, after years of feedback and encouragement to do so, the LGBTQA Center undertook a community feedback process to solicit current thoughts, opinions and suggestions for renaming the LGBTQA Center.  After a thoughtful process of research, campus input, many discussions, and careful vetting, we are thrilled to announce our new name:

University of Vermont Prism Center logo

The overwhelming consensus from all who participated in the renaming process was that an acronym was not inclusive and could never reflect the beautiful diversity of our communities, nor the fluidity of identity.  Many also pointed out that acronyms are clunky and can be confusing to those who are unfamiliar.

A strength of our new name is that it is expansive enough to communicate inclusion and welcome to a spectrum of identities.  This was important to a large majority of people who participated and who requested that we prioritize the importance of conveying a broader meaning, not as literal as an acronym, and more open to interpretation. It is critical that students be able to envision themselves as part of the communities we serve when hearing our name, rather than feeling excluded.  The new name is true to this request.  Prisms take light and turn it into rainbows.  When asked, the image of a rainbow is what most people already associate with our office.
Most importantly, while our name is changing, our purpose is not.  We will continue to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students, as well as students whose identities fall in between or expand beyond those categories, and work to create a campus community where people of all sexual and gender identities can thrive.  Gender and sexual identities are complex and the language we have to name, discuss and explore identity will never perfectly capture its many dimensions or the diversity of our experiences.  We remain committed to creating space for self-identification, community recognition, and affirmation.

Prisms are transformative, prisms are reflective, prisms help us see beautiful spectrums and rainbows.  We aspire to continue to do our life-changing and campus-improving work and to live up to the full possibilities our new name provides.

History & Introduction to the Renaming Process

The LGBTQA Center was founded in 1999 as the Office for Services to People who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questiong and Allies (LGBTQA). At the end of the first academic year, the office was renamed The LGBTQA Coalition by a coordinating committee, but appears to have continued to be referred to as LGBTQA Services and/or LGBT Services. The name LGBTQA Services was in use until around 2010 when the name changed to the iteration still in use today, LGBTQA Center.


Over the years, LGBTQA Center staff have received feedback from students especially about the limitations of using an acronym for a name and the lack of inclusion it conveys for communities and identities that are not named. As queer and trans* communities have grown and diversified, this diversity is increasingly lacking from the acronym, even when the acronym is lengthened and expanded (for example, LGBTQQIAAPSGL).


Misnaming is another challenge of having an acronym for a name. The Center is frequently misnamed by people struggling to remember the acronym correctly and what it stands for. We anticipate this confusion would only get worse if the acronym were lengthened. Although the misnaming is often unintentional, the impact can be anything from confusion to frustration; and the students, faculty and staff who use the Center feeling dismissed, ignored or invisible in our campus community.


According to data gathered by the Consortium of LGBT Professionals in Higher Education, there is a nation-wide trend away from the use of acronyms in Center names and toward something more descriptive of the services provided, audience served, or host institution’s particular identity (such as naming the Center after an individual). This report was used to inform our process.


Throughout the process we stressed, and reminded others often, that the name of our Office may change, but our purpose will continue to be to serve the diverse queer and trans communities at the University of Vermont. We will continue to do much of the same work you know and love us for and welcome new opportunities and partnerships that a new name may bring to achieve our vision of a responsive and supportive environment that promotes equity, inclusion, academic success, community, and social justice for individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities at UVM.

Feedback was gathered during Spring 2018 with the aim of having a new name in place for the 2018-2019 school year.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Renaming Process

How was the new name chosen?

The process was modeled after the Mosaic Center for Students of Color’s effort when they renamed from ALANA Student Center last year. National data, a literature review, four in-person community forums, an online survey, consultation with the LGBTQA Center Advisory Board, and informal stakeholder interviews were all used to gather input. Over 100 responses were received from students at all levels, alums, staff and faculty.  In addition to broad representation from UVM’s queer and trans communities, many cisgender, heterosexual allies participated as well. 

The suggestions and community feedback were reviewed by the Director with the help of a guiding committee composed of faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students from across campus.  The Center is extremely grateful to everyone who participated.

What feedback did you receive, in a nutshell?

The feedback was overwhelmingly supportive of a name change.  No responses indicated a desire for the name to stay the same and only a few concerns about having a new name were raised, such as making sure the change was well publicized.  Several themes stood out clearly in the responses:

  • Renaming the Center and losing the acronym is a great idea.
  • When people think of the Center, they think of rainbows, inclusion & support.
  • A new name should better convey a message of inclusion, such as by having a name that is less literal and more open to interpretation and broader meaning.
  • Feelings about using the word “queer” in the name are strong and range from “best word ever” to “worst word ever,” and everything in between.
  • The majority of respondents didn’t have a suggestion for what the new name should be or stated that they’d be happy with any new name as long as it wasn’t an acronym.
  • Respondents were grateful to the LGBTQA Center for being open to evolving and for having a community-engaged process.

Why was renaming the Center important?

Language around gender and sexual identity has changed tremendously in the twenty years since the Center was founded.  At that time, in 1999, the Center was known as the Office for Services to People who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies (LGBTQA) and there was debate even then as to whether an acronym was a suitable name.

The Office was referred to as LGBTQA Services and/or LGBT Services until around 2010 when the name changed to LGBTQA Center.  Over the years the letters and what they stand for have changed informally, such as adding an extra Q for “Queer” and the A standing for “Asexual” rather than “Ally,” but the continued use of an acronym has been imperfect and a source of tension.  (continued on other side)

LGBTQA Center staff have received feedback for years, from students especially, about the limitations of using an acronym for a name and the lack of inclusion it conveys for communities and identities that are not named.  As queer and trans communities have grown and diversified, this diversity is increasingly lacking from the acronym. We felt it was time to evolve and had the full support of the University administration.

How are similar offices at other schools named?

As part of our process, we started with a literature review to better understand trends on other campuses. A report compiled by The Consortium of LGBT Professionals in Higher Education on naming trends for LGBT Centers was identified as an important reference.  According to the report, there is a nation-wide trend away from the use of acronyms in Center names and toward something more descriptive of the services provided, audience served, or host institution’s particular identity (such as naming the Center after an individual).

What about the word “queer”?

We recognize that the word queer has a complex history.  One piece of this history is the use of the word as a slur, intended to cause harm.  Queer also has a long, rich history as a term of re-empowerment by the LGBTQ+ community, a source of pride for many who self-identify as queer, and as an inclusive, unifying term that recognizes that many complex identities make up the LGBTQ+ (and many other identities) community.

Opinions about the word queer in the feedback we gathered represented nearly every point of view imaginable; from super in-favor of its use, to ultra-opposed, indifferent and everything in between. In recognition of the varied opinions among the communities we serve, we chose not to use queer in our name.  However, we often do use queer intentionally when talking about our work and our community for many reasons, including:

  • To refer collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer communities.
  • As an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of ‘LGBT,’ but also those whose identities fall in between or expand beyond those categories, such as nonbinary, pansexual, and asexual people, to name just a few.
  • In recognition of the fact that the word queer reaches across lines of race, ethnicity, gender and gender expression, class, religion, sexuality and sexual identity, and nationality in ways that the mainstream interpretation of the LGBT acronym does not.

What other names did you consider?

The majority of people we talked to didn’t have a suggestion for a new name.  Among those who did, Gender and Sexuality Center, or a variation of thereof, was common.   We felt that this name has the potential to create too much confusion with the Women’s Center at UVM and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies program at UVM to make sense for us.  Pride Center was also suggested, but there is already an LGBT community organization in Burlington with a similar name and it could be difficult to distinguish between the two if we were to share a name.