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Finding Our Place: A New Semester

By Luca Maurer

Where do we feel safe, respected, understood, and supported? Is it possible to construct a classroom as a safe landing?

We are a comprehensive residential college; our campus represents home for all of our students. Our classrooms must be an extension of a safe space in order for deep learning to occur. It becomes more and more important that we know our students and listen to their perspective on how they learn best. IC’s efforts to support LGBTQ students and provide needed resources are reflected in one student’s story regarding intentional community and a place to call home.

“School was so hard. Life was so hard. Before I came here, I could not see my future. I have been able to be my true self here. Luca/The LGBT center is a big part of that. I am grateful for the center and that IC has it. The LGBT center has given me a home and a family like I’ve never had before. Every day I’m encouraged to better myself and keep my head up, to go to class, to talk to my professors, to BE something. Through my interactions I have been able to come out to my bio-family in a way where I felt comfortable and supported. The LGBT Center is the 1st place in my life that I really knew I was welcomed as a transgender person…My life, self-perception and attitude towards my orientation/identity has changed positively largely due to Luca Maurer and the LGBT center, they make me proud to call Ithaca College “Home”.

Like their non-LGBTQ peers, returning from break and their families of origin, many LGBTQ students return from winter break with mixed feelings. Expectations and independence flex like a rubberband; stretching between who you can be at home, and who you are coming to be in the context of your peers. Changes are continuous and can demand energy and vigilance.  Some students have come to a more rich understanding of their identity. Others have worked on self-acceptance, of things they already knew of themselves but found it difficult to reconcile or incorporate into their sense of themselves in the past. Others still have developed leadership skills or honed academic excellence in LGBTQ specific and non-LGBTQ learning opportunities, classroom interactions, and student organizations.

For LGBTQ students of color, experiencing multiple marginalization can layer additional stresses and challenges. Students of color, as well as white students acting in solidarity and allyship, may also find themselves devoting untold energy to transforming campus and communities toward racial justice and more intersectional approaches.

Becoming aware of the needs and issues of LGBTQ students and ways these may be similar and different from heterosexual and cisgender students matters. You may not notice the difference you are making, but your attention contributes to the improvement of the campus community and the lives of LGBTQ individuals and their families, friends, and allies here at IC.  Among other things, you’ll be contributing toward:

  • Building a more inclusive and welcoming campus community, which will also positively impact recruitment and retention.
  • Preparing and equipping all students to interact and succeed in an increasingly diverse community and society, an inclusive, productive workforce, and a global society.
  • Demonstrating that you as a professional understand the increasingly diverse society and are committed to meeting students’ needs.
  • Providing opportunities for LGBTQ students to further develop their skills, and harness them for the benefit of themselves and our campus and community; or helping to make up for opportunities lost during their earlier development due to marginalization, stigmatization, emotionally or physically unsafe environments, and associated limited aspirations.

While these principles can be understood at the conceptual level, they can be less easy to envision what they may look like in practice. Take a look at the video posted below, students are explicit about the barriers they face and provoke us to be mindful of how we create a positive and inclusive classroom climate.

The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted LGBTQ student issues in this piece, Ask Me: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know. A transcript of the video above is available here.

‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to …

chronicle.com

Shane Windmeyer, executive director of the advocacy group Campus Pride, says research data are driven by binary thinking that does not reflect the increasingly varied …

 

IC has many policies and services in place to support LGBTQ students. Please contact Luca lmaurer@ithaca.edu if you or your students have questions about how to:

  • designate a chosen/preferred name (available to both students and IC employees)
  • find trans housing information
  • access LGBTQ support services
  • infuse LGBTQ content into your syllabus or the curriculum of your discipline
  • locate research or resources on specific LGBTQ topics
  • learn more about campus and community learning opportunities on LGBTQ themes

Additionally, as faculty, should you become aware of service, policy, or practice gaps where IC could be serving LGBTQ students more effectively so that they may achieve their full academic and personal potential, please feel free to contact the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services .

Further Resources

Beyond Coming Out: New Insights about GLBQ College Students of Color,”a new report by the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE),

Diversity In Academe: Transgender On Campus special report by the Chronicle of Higher Education

Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, which, among other things, found LGBTQ students experienced these at alarmingly high rates.

 

 

 

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