Our history


The University of Michigan Spectrum Center was established in 1971 as the first center in higher education to support LGBTQIA2S+ students on campus. Since its founding, the Spectrum Center has continued to serve as a national leader in developing student services and programs through an intersectional lens.


The center was preceded by large amounts of student activism from the U-M chapter of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Radical Lesbians, as well as other students and local advocates. The Spectrum Center, first known as the Human Sexuality Office, was established through student demand for recognition and space for LGBTQ+ community on U-M’s campus, and its first staffers were members of the Gay Liberation Front and Radical Lesbians—Jim Toy and Cynthia Gair, respectively.

Despite being only temporary, quarter-time staff members, the two coordinators worked tirelessly to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ students. Early efforts included securing student access to peer and professional mental health counseling, connecting students to resources through peer advisors and a 24-hour “gay hotline,” and training students to be a part of a speaker’s bureau that went to various classes and campus programs to share their experiences and humanize the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, the coordinators and students pushed for systemic change, such as having the University add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy—something that took 21 years of advocacy to implement.

The growth of the office was slow, but steady. Toy and Gair’s positions went from temporary to permanent, and then from quarter-time to half-time, then from half-time to full-time. In 1994, the model of having two program coordinators—one for gay men and one for lesbians—was retired in favor of having a single director of the office, with Ronni Sanlo being the first to serve in this new position. The office also changed its name multiple times throughout the years, reflecting a broadened understanding of sexuality, gender, and the scope of the office. The Human Sexuality Office became the Lesbian Gay Male Programs Office in the 1980s. “Bisexual” and “Transgender” were added to the list of identities in the title in 1994 and 1995 respectively. In 2008, we were re-named the Spectrum Center to reflect the expansiveness of our community, which has remained the title of the office since.

LGBTQ+ history highlights at U-M

  • 1993 - Sexual orientation is added into U-M’s non-discrimination policy
  • 1995 - Hosted the first-ever Lavender Graduation
  • 2005 - Allyhood Development Training Program is launched; Gender identity is added into U-M’s non-discrimination policy
  • 2007 - Preferred Name Policy implemented
  • 2011 - 40th Anniversary Celebration; held MBLGTACC
  • 2013 - GILE established
  • 2016 - Preferred Pronouns Policy implemented
  • 2019 - Oral History Project begins; the Spectrum Center Programming Board is adopted as a Sponsored Student Organization
  • 2020 - 25th Annual Lavender Graduation; Spectrum Center Anti-Racism Coalition (SpARC) is established
  • 2021 - 50th Anniversary Celebration; Oral History Project debuts
  • 2022 - The Introduction to LGBTQIA2S+ Communities and Identities webcourse pilot is made available
  • 2023 - Towards Solidarity: Allyship in Action is launched as an overhaul of the previous Allyhood development training curriculum