Members of the SUNY New Paltz Community:
In Fall 2012, the LGBTQ Task Force was convened to explore findings of the 2011 LGBTQ campus climate survey (here). The Task Force was charged with developing recommendations to guide the college in building a more inclusive and equitable campus climate for LGBTQ students and employees. In December 2013, the Task Force submitted a report to the President’s Cabinet for review. We are sharing this report with you on behalf of the Task Force (download report here).
Since the survey was released and while the task force has been meeting, the campus community has already taken many steps to support our LGBTQ community. They include:
• Including gender identity in the college’s non-discrimination, non-harassment policy.
• Establishing institutional policy that major renovation and new construction projects include gender neutral facilities where possible.
• Establishing an “LGBTQ at New Paltz” webpage, based on best practices and information from other universities; this site is nearly complete, and should be available in the next few weeks.
• Expanding Welcome Week programming to include a session on diversity, equity, inclusiveness, and tolerance led by an outside speaker.
• Changing plans for the Wooster Building renovation to include gender neutral bathrooms.
• Changing Campus Auxiliary Services policy to use preferred names for food and beverage orders.
• Initiating, through a volunteer-led effort, a New Paltz LGBTQ Allies Program.
• Including a social LGBTQ mixer at first-year student orientation.
Academic freedom and the broad discretion students have to organize and undertake student-driven programming are cornerstones of our campus culture. The task force report highlights a number of initiatives that will be most successful when students, faculty and staff sustain the interest and commit to and engage in the work directly. This may mean faculty working together to respond to student academic interest around LGBTQ discourse, or cooperation and collaboration among student groups to fund and organize events and programming that speak to LGBTQ awareness. We ask the community to consider organizing or expanding efforts around the following recommendations:
• Ongoing and consistent “coming out” support groups. These support groups can be coordinated with assistance from the Counseling Center and the Queer Student Union.
• Continuation of the Allies Program.
• Consider inclusion of LGBTQ /Queer studies or other interdisciplinary opportunities in academic programming to engage LGBTQ as well as other dimensions of diversity within the curriculum.
In reviewing the report, we identified common ground between some recommendations and the institution’s strategic plan. Connecting report recommendations to the strategic plan provides an opportunity to integrate this work into the college’s long-term goals, including how we allocate limited financial and human resources and how we measure outcomes and improvements. It is unrealistic to expect that we can meet all of the many needs identified in this report, or that we can do so in any reasonable timeframe. Some are not within our purview. Furthermore, we must balance the needs brought forward in the report alongside other needs and priorities that serve the broader campus community and the college’s mission.
With that frame of reference, the College administration is committed to adopting the following recommendations in conjunction with the strategic plan:
• Hire a consultant to review institutional policies and materials and where possible, recommend revisions so that they are more inclusive.
• Review institutional forms and surveys to determine the use of gender options on these forms.
• Develop a “community response team” that will help support the community around bias and diversity concerns, drawing on research into the experiences of other campuses.
• Continue the enhanced training/orientation planned for fall 2014 Welcome Week into the future.
• Develop and communicate policies, process and or limitations around name changes and use of preferred names within the institution, within legal constraints.
• Educate/train service-centered offices and faculty to raise awareness and preparedness for effectively engaging LGBTQ and other dimensions of diversity.
• Participate bi-annually in the LGBTQ-Friendly Campus Climate Index, with the goal of incremental improvements based on newly achieved changes as well as ongoing efforts to ultimately reach a 4.0 rating.
We will continue to identify ways to enhance the experience of all who work, live and study here. The quality of that experience is a shared responsibility, and our success depends on all members of our community engaging productively in that process. Likewise, we must be patient with one another as we learn and grow as a community.
We invite you to attend a forum about the task force report on Monday, February 10, 3PM, SUB 62/63. Members of the LGTBQ task force will provide insight into their work and answer questions about the report.
We are grateful to the members of the task force for their commitment and their investment of time, energy, and careful attention to this project.
Donald P. Christian, President
Tanhena Pacheco-Dunn, Executive Director, Compliance and Campus Climate