LGBTQ+ students are asking for the creation of an LGBTQ+ staff worker position to advocate for them on campus.
At Student Senate’s meeting on April 25, Common Ground asked Senate to continue conversations with LGBTQ+ students about their needs on campus and to create a committee to look at the creation of a staff worker position. Senate created an ad hoc committee at the meeting after a 15-minute question and answer session with the Common Ground members present.
Junior and Common Ground exec member Ashley Kerley said that the current plan for the committee is to include two Common Ground members, Vice President of Student Development Anne Ehrlich and two senators. The Common Ground members will be Kerley and junior Common Ground exec member Teslin Penoyer and the senators have yet to be decided.
Kerley said they had additionally reached out to the Campus Diversity Committee but that they declined to participate.
Ehrlich has been an important resource for Common Ground this year, Kerley and Penoyer said. However, Common Ground would prefer having a dedicated staff member, rather than relying on people who have other roles on campus they need to fulfill.
“Whose job is it to look out for my community before anything else?” Kerley said. “Because I’m a student. If I have to miss a meeting to go to class, I’m gonna go to class.”
Kerley was also disappointed with how Senate has responded to the needs of LGBTQ+ students this year.
“Just because we hit a legal stalemate with the IVCF issue does not mean that we’re gonna go away because there’s still all kinds of issues in Senate that were uncovered this year,” Kerley said.
The founders of the Queer and Trans People of Color Collective (QTPOCC) would also appreciate having an LGBTQ+ staff worker as a dedicated advisor to their group and as someone who has shared in some of their experiences as an LGBTQ+ person. Currently, they have been working with CIL Senior Administrative Assistant Becky Canfield.
“I think that if we did have an LGBT person like that on campus then a lot of people would be like, ‘This is good, I know for a fact that if I have something that I think is a problem I can talk to someone who can actually understand,’” freshman and QTPOCC founder Angel Blanchard said.
QTPOCC may also be included in the process of hiring the staff worker if it goes forward.
Penoyer and Kerley noted that trans and nonbinary voices are especially missing at the institutional level.
“Those people are not in positions of power in a lot of campuses, so there’s no one there being like ‘This was an issue for me so maybe you guys should think about how it affects students,’” Penoyer said. “There’s no one pushing for that really.”
Next fall Common Ground hopes to continue pushing for dead names to be taken off class rosters and any paperwork that does not require legal names. They also hope to organize transportation to a clinic that can prescribe hormone therapy for students who want to transition. Penoyer will be Health and Wellness chair of Senate, so they hope to coordinate with the Health and Wellness committee.
Overall, Common Ground feels a need for a specific staff advocate for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’m tired of people saying it’s not their job because it has to be somebody’s job,” Kerley said.