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Building LGBTQIA+ Community on Diverse Campuses- Faculty’s Role and Responsibilities

Shaun Travers

University of California, San Diego

Faculty provide a strong force for creating change and building community on any college or university campus.  They have been at the forefront of identity-based centers and offices (e.g., Gender Equity and Women’s; Multicultural and Multi-Ethnic; Black/African American, Latinx, Asian-American& Pacific Islander, Native American & Indigenous; and Disability), which now seem a fairly familiar and established part of our academic landscape in higher education. Faculty helped develop and grow these spaces and services in response to shifting student demographics and changing social, political, and cultural norms in the larger world.

LGBTQIA+ services and centers are more recent arrivals on the scene, and vary dramatically across public and private institutions, religious and secular institutions, small, medium and large institutions, as well as based on local and regional political realities. They have, to some extent, been modeled on the earlier Women’s, Ethnic-specific and Multicultural Centers, which came into existence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many Centers were formed in response to the immediate felt needs of students who were arriving in increasing numbers on college campuses starting in the 1990s, and immediately following the death a Matthew Shepard, a gay college student from Wyoming who was horrifically murdered.  These new out and proud students were significantly different than most students at US institutions of that time. Student-led protests and campaigns, where students demanded services that reflected their identities, offered education and support, and provided a focus for the work on campus became the norm.

Changing student demographics continues to be a generative source of creativity and challenge around identity-based work.  Even the acronym LGBTQIA+ can be confusing and vexing to faculty serving emerging populations of students. However, the intersectional nature of our students and communities who most often experience multiple, oppressive realities in the academy call for even stronger advocacy from the faculty. Queer and trans communities of color in higher education are simultaneously at the forefront of the movement, while experiences the intensities of the campus climate at these intersections.

Given these realities, strategies which faculty can employ to assist in building community are many, regardless of a particular person’s identification as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.  As faculty take on responsibilities for advocating for LGBTQIA+ communities, their role can often shift at an institution.  There are risks involved, but the rewards in terms of campus climate and student success are well worth the academic freedom, service and shared governance responsibilities that the faculty have at all institutions.

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LGBTQ Classics Today: Professional and Pedagogical Issues

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