Gender and Sexuality Column

Room remains for improved LGBT inclusion at SU

/ The Daily Orange

Syracuse University has nothing but pride for the Orange, but the sense of pride in the rest of the colors of the rainbow could use a little work.

As progressive as SU may seem, it didn’t make the cut for Campus Pride’s recent list of top 30 colleges for LGBT students. Instead, peer institution Cornell University and the neighboring institutions of Ithaca College and Hobart and William Smith Colleges were the schools that represented New York state.

Of course, SU can definitely be considered one of the more LGBT-friendly campuses in the country: SU’s LGBT Resource Center just celebrated 15 years of service on Monday. Still, as long as there are public and private acts of hatred against the LGBT community, there are efforts that can be made to ensure a more inclusive environment for LGBT students on campus.

Because the resource center already exists and is an active presence on campus, it’s important that straight and cisgender allies lend their helping hand and use their privileges for good. Key ways that SU as an administration can step up its game with LGBT inclusion are by giving queer students and professors more visibility, and providing options to make housing less gender-focused.

Building bridges within the community

Beyond the “safe space” rainbow stickers that decorate professors’ doors, SU should take note from Macalester College’s  “Out and Proud” community list. Coordinated by Macalester’s multicultural office, the list consists of the names of faculty and staff at the university that self-identify as part of the LGBT community.

In 2014 and 2015, SU’s LGBT Resource Center organized its own version of an LGBT support list called “You Are Not Alone.” The list was published in The Daily Orange, but it is hard to find a solid record of LGBT allies on campus otherwise.

To fill this void, a tangible database of LGBT-identified or pro-LGBT faculty members should be more accessible to students. By making this resource more readily available, the university would create a sense of comfort among the LGBT and questioning students who haven’t yet gotten the courage to swing by the resource center.

SU has a decent track record with LGBT inclusion, but it could better accommodate students who feel isolated due to their sexuality or gender identity. Seeing those names and that range of areas of study — like on the Macalester list — would let LGBT students at SU know for sure that there is a diverse queer community on the Hill to confide in.

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Xiao Xinran | Contributing Photographer

Taking the stress out of campus housing

As we know, choosing student housing is about much more than how many minutes you are from the Quad and which dining hall you get to eat at. The best and worst part of picking your housing is choosing or being randomly paired with roommates. Sometimes it works out and other times, well, not so much. But a bad roommate experience should never result from discomfort with your or another student’s gender or sexuality.
It is possible to coordinate mixed-gender housing as a sophomore, but extending this option to freshmen would make the already complicated decision that much easier. Peer institution Cornell seems to be on top of things: the housing policy passed in 2012 allows students over age 18 to live with whomever they choose, regardless of biological sex, gender or gender identity.

Sharing a small space with another person can be uncomfortable as it is. For whatever the student’s reasons, giving them the freedom to choose their roommate would alleviate any uneasiness that may come with being LGBT.

Turning up the pride

It’s clear that the LGBT Resource Center and the students and staff behind it have worked hard for years. It’s evident in initiatives like the Reel Queer Film Festival, the annual Totally Fabulous Drag Show finals and student-specific dialogue groups have raised the level of awareness on campus.

But bettering SU’s campus climate overall will be a community effort. We can’t get to that point without increased involvement of administrators who can help change SU’s policies and practices. Even those in the SU community who don’t identify as LGBT but stand behind the movement should make sure they’re using their privilege to make the voices of queer students louder.

By working together and more closely with the LGBT community, the administration as a whole can prove themselves dedicated allies and ensure that SU remains a safe place all around.

Ivana Pino is a sophomore political science major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at ivpino@syr.edu.

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