At Fermilab, resources for the LGBTQA+ community

Photo: Veronica Pronitcheva
Photo: Veronica Pronitcheva

This article pulls from Robert R. Wilson’s 2000 obituary and from the Fermilab article Meet Spectrum: the lab resource group for the LGBTQA+ community (28 June, 2017).

On March 1, 1967 Robert Rathbun Wilson was appointed director of the new National Accelerator Laboratory (“Fermi” was added to the name later). According to Mike Witherell, Fermilab’s fourth director, in addition to Wilson’s “vision of the laboratory as a cultural, recreational and educational center for the surrounding community as well as a global research center open to the international community of scientists,” he exemplified “a profound and unshakable commitment to human rights.”

Wilson made a major social impact even before any of the lab’s major facilities was completed, addressing the issue of racial unrest that was inflaming the country in 1968. Wilson and his immediate staff drafted a policy on human rights that was posted throughout the laboratory and is still in effect today:

Prejudice has no place in the pursuit of knowledge. In any conflict between technical expediency and human rights, we shall stand firmly on the side of human rights. Our support of the rights of the members of minority groups in our laboratory and its environs is inextricably intertwined with our goal of creating a new center of technical and scientific excellence.

In this spirit, Fermilab has formed a series of resource groups, the newest of which is Spectrum, a group targeted towards providing resources for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning) and allies (LGBTQA+) community and building awareness to ensure that the laboratory has inclusive policies.

The goal is to make Fermilab the kind of workplace where everyone can feel comfortable coming out and being themselves. Spectrum members are in the process of developing a safe-zone awareness and training program to promote respect and provide opportunities to learn about LGBTQA+ issues.

Visiting collaborators are welcome to send a message to the Spectrum group to introduce themselves, suggest a get-together, or just learn more about the group.

Read the full article Meet Spectrum: the lab resource group for the LGBTQA+ community.