Uni Working Towards More LGBTQ+ Inclusion

A recent survey about LGBTQ+ Inclusivity at Uni has prompted positive steps from the faculty and administration to be taken to help LGBTQ+ members of the community feel more included at school. The survey was sent out by Spectrum Club, which provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and allies. These steps included a professional development workshop and various other actions by faculty.

“We [the leaders of Spectrum] are two seniors and a junior and…for our Uni careers spanning as long as they had, we noticed people talking about how things weren’t at the most inclusive or friendly that they wanted them to be,” Spectrum President Roshan Perry says, and that along with their own experiences, the leaders wanted to represent the Queer Student Body’s experiences. With the virtual format, the survey fit perfectly. 

The survey, in which 48 students participated, found that overall, teachers asked for the pronouns of their students 41.6% of the time and provided theirs 53.8% of the time. Asking for and using the correct pronouns is “probably the easiest and most important difference you can make in Trans/Nonbinary students’ school experiences, as it goes a long way towards respecting the gender identities of your students,” the club’s report stated. One student stated in the survey that “‘when people misgender me, it feels like people are saying, ‘the way that you are presenting is wrong’ and ‘you are wrong.’” 

Many respondents also noted binary language as something that was present in many teachers’ language. Binary language can include things such as “ladies and gentlemen” or “he or she.” This can leave trans or non-binary students and instead more inclusive language such as “everyone” or “they.” 

The results of this survey prompted several responses from the faculty and other groups. The first was a statement of solidarity from the Uni Faculty Organization’s Social Justice Committee standing with the school’s LGBTQ+ Students. The UFO, which, according to the statement is founded on “principles of collective organization and self-advocacy,” acknowledged that “LGBTQ+ students deserve to be treated with dignity on their own terms” and that the Union’s goals cannot be met until we have “abolished the forms of discrimination and hate.” Philip Ernstmeyer, the President of the UFO, stated that “LGBTQ folks are workers, so LBGTQ issues are labor issues.” 

Another important step taking place was a pronouns workshop arranged by the Coordinator for Equity and Public Engagement Valerie O’Brien. The pronouns workshop, which was hosted by Champaign Urbana’s UP Center, took place during a faculty meeting and was based on a similar workshop that the UP Center had done during pride month. O’Brien believes that this is “a really important issue” and decided to arrange for this workshop, stating that “using correct pronouns and using inclusive language and gender-neutral language are really important pieces of making classes inclusive.” At the workshop, O’Brien says that they discussed “key terminology related to gender identity,” “what to do if you misgender someone,” and other important topics. 

The response to the push to decrease queerphobia has received mostly positive responses from the Uni Community, although Perry did note that Spectrum Club did receive some negative responses to their survey. 

Interim Head Elizabeth Majerus says that combatting queerphobia is important because she “wants our school to be like a second home for everybody” and that “you can’t feel at home and feel comfortable if you can’t bring your whole self to school.” She also noted that “students who are LBGTQ+ are more at risk for self-harm, suicide, other harmful behaviors” and that “I want to do everything that I can to make sure that those students are supported and protected,” mentioning studies that having supportive adults can make a huge difference for individuals.