LGBT assessment questions turn into recommendations

Simon Husted

University officials are taking new ideas into consideration this fall on how to better accommodate Kent State’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Christina McVay, a faculty associate in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is drafting a list of recommendations based on questions in the Campus Climate Index, a national assessment that indicates how well the LGBT communities at universities like Kent State are treated.

McVay’s recommendations include:

  • Revise the non-discrimination policy statement to include “gender identity” or “gender identity or expression.” (Note: McVay said a lawyer from the university told her that “gender,” which is provided in the university’s non-discrimination policy, has been interpreted in an appeals case to include transgender individuals.)

  • Provide the opportunity for transgender students to self-identify their gender identity on standard forms, including applications for admission and housing and student health forms.

  • Provide an accessible, simple process for students to change their name and gender identity on university records and documents. (Right now, a student needs to provide a court order to the registrar’s office in order to change his or her name and gender.)

  • Create a brochure about LGBTQ opportunities at Kent State that admission officers can distribute at admissions fairs.

  • Establish an LGBTQ alumni group and include LGBTQ news and information in alumni publications.

  • Include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression issues consistently in orientation lessons for new faculty and staff members.

McVay said she is planning to present her recommendations to Provost Rob Frank and Alfreda Brown, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion sometime in September. Until then, she said she plans to add more recommendations to the list.

One question the Campus Climate Index asks is whether the university hosts social events specifically for LGBT students. On Aug. 28, the LGBTQ Center and the Student Success Program will host an LGBTQ reception in the student center’s music listening center for incoming and returning students to socialize and enjoy refreshments from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“It’s the first time the university is organizing an event like this,” said Christopher Clevenger, student assistant for the LGBTQ Center. Randi Schneider, an associate director at the Student Success Program, originated the idea for the reception, Clevenger said, and now faculty members from various departments including the College of Communication and Information, the Department of Sociology, and the College of Education, Health and Human Services are showing interest in participating.

University officials have previously participated in student organized LGBTQ functions like the candlelight vigil last October, which honored victims of LGBT hate crimes and bullying, but never before have officials hosted an LGBTQ event, Clevenger said.

McVay completed the assessment and is now waiting to receive Brown and Frank’s approval.

Sondra “Jack” Twedt, a founding member of Kent State’s newest LGBT student organization, Gay Rights Revolutionaries, said she thinks Kent State is a very welcoming school for members of the LGBT community.

“It’s a big school though,” the sophomore geology major said, adding that all large student bodies include “ignorant” individuals. Her suggestion is to incorporate an LGBT-inclusive sensitivity lesson in every First Year Experience (FYE) course.

“You don’t have to agree, but you do have to accept,” Twedt said.

Justin Lagore, another founding member of Gay Rights Revolutionaries, said he hopes the organization can be the voice behind any changes asked by Kent State’s LGBT community.

“We’re already taking steps in the right direction,” the sophomore advertising major said. “I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Contact Summer Kent Stater reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].