Campus News

Rainbow crosswalk symbolizes UB’s LGBTQ pride

Facilities staff member Ryan Helfrey spray-paints the rainbow crosswalk across Putnam Way.

A University Facilities staff member Ryan Helfrey paints the crosswalk on Putnam Way between the Student Union and UB Commons. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published August 16, 2019

“Vibrant art installations like the rainbow crosswalk not only convey that underrepresented and traditionally marginalized populations like LGBTQ+ people are welcomed into the UB community, but that they are celebrated. ”
Ben Fabian, president

The large panels of bright colors fill the most visible crosswalk on the North Campus — on Putnam Way between the Student Union and UB Commons — a bold, visual symbol of UB’s pride and support for the LGBTQ community.

Members of the UB community are invited to “walk the walk” by attending a special ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration of the rainbow crosswalk on Aug. 29.

The event, sponsored by the Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIX), the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association, the Intercultural and Diversity Center, and Campus Living, will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Senior university and student leaders will speak at the ribbon cutting at 12:15 p.m., which also will feature music and food. Putnam Way will be closed from noon to 12:30 p.m. to accommodate the event.

“The rainbow crosswalk boldly symbolizes UB’s inclusive culture and celebrates our LGBTQ+ community,” says Despina Stratigakos, vice provost for inclusive excellence. “The crosswalk, which will be there for the entire fall semester, also reminds us to show our pride and support every day: to walk the walk of our inclusive values at UB on a daily basis.”

The idea for the crosswalk, which was painted last weekend by University Facilities staff, Stratigakos explains, originated with the Student Committee for Inclusive Excellence, which is part of OIX and includes Diversity Advocates from the Intercultural and Diversity Center. The committee, which also helped to organize UB’s first Pride Parade in April, was chaired last year by Christiana Johnson, who graduated in the spring with a BA in history. It will be chaired this coming year by Rishabh Bhandawat, a PhD student in industrial and systems engineering.

“There is beauty in diversity, and this crosswalk will be a symbol of this beauty and strength,” Bhandawat says. “I strongly hope that this beautiful corner inspires everyone on campus on how we are all figuring out how to walk through this world together. 

“The Student Committee for Inclusive Excellence is delighted to be a part of this representation of LGBTQ inclusion and empowerment.”

Ben Fabian, assistant director for student support in the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy, and president of the LGBTQ FSA, notes the timing of the event is “uniquely special this year,” with the gay rights movement in the U.S. recognizing a 50-year milestone in June — the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969.

“Vibrant art installations like the rainbow crosswalk not only convey that underrepresented and traditionally marginalized populations like LGBTQ+ people are welcomed into the UB community, but that they are celebrated,” Fabian says.

“We all have a responsibility to maintain an inclusive community here, but our UB values should invigorate us to create a more inclusive society at large.”

Rutuja Sawant, a senior media study film production major and Diversity Advocate, says the rainbow crosswalk is important for visibility.

“As a freshman here a few years ago, I wish I had seen the LGBTQ+ community more visible on campus,” says Sawant, who helped plan the Aug. 29 crosswalk ribbon cutting as a member of the Student Committee for Inclusive Excellence. “When I was closeted, I had to actively go looking for LGBTQ+ resources. I, specifically as an International student, wasn’t entirely sure how accepting the UB community was of LGBTQ+.” 

The crosswalk “makes a statement that we (LGBTQ+ community) are here and are supported by some fantastic allies,” she says. “I think it would make it easier for someone like me back then, who was new to the campus or just curious, to feel included and safe to be who they are. 

The project also increases awareness and opens discussion, Sawant explains, particularly for those who might not have been exposed previously to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Overall, I thinks it’s a great step toward making the campus easier, more inclusive and safer for the lgbtq+ community. And I’m glad that UB cared and supported us when we started these ideas.”


Will UB also celebrate its straight and heterosexual community in a similar way?

Kenneth R. Hoffmann