Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.05.10
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
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1. Winston Salem Journal – Gay rights making gains
2. The Nevada Sagebrush – QSU aims for campus acceptance
3. The Maneater – Students rally around fired professor
4. The Chronicle - College Suspends Student for Working in Gay Pornography
1. Winston Salem Journal, May 4, 2009
P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27102
Gay rights making gains
By Michael Hewlett
Three years ago, Winston-Salem State University's nondiscrimination policy didn't include sexual orientation. Neither did those at most of the historically black colleges and universities in the UNC system.
But today, four of the five public historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, including Winston-Salem State University, have policies that include sexual orientation.
The change is happening at a time when just in the past few months, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut have taken steps to legalize same-sex marriage.
"Clearly, society has changed," said Edward Hanes Jr., the equal employment opportunity officer at Winston-Salem State University.
"More information in the community has brought the change around, more acknowledgement that our campuses are diverse in many ways, beyond the color of skin," Hanes said.
That change hasn't come easily, however. Nationally, HBCUs have been resistant, and sometimes hostile, to protecting the rights of gay students and faculty.
Many HBCUs were founded by religious organizations, said Joey Gaskins, the diversity student coordinator for Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's leading gay-rights organizations.
Those religious organizations were often conservative on social issues, such as homosexuality, with black ministers preaching that homosexuality was a sin.
"A lot of our students find the administration and faculty tend to be very conservative and not agreeing with who they are as a people and not allowing the space to educate the community," Gaskins said.
But historically black colleges and universities should not turn their back on the Christian values that they were founded upon, said Bishop Harry Jackson, the founder of High Impact Leadership Coalition, a black conservative organization based in Maryland. He said he has no problems with gay students having organizations on campuses or in making sure that gay students are not discriminated against.
However, he said he thinks that gay activists have hijacked the language of the civil-rights movement and presented "the gay lifestyle as being a group of people who are oppressed and downtrodden."
"My concern is that on these campuses, there is not a level of gay activism to the point that we blur so much the lines of roles of family and parenting that are the building blocks of our culture," said Jackson, who last week organized a rally against same-sex marriage in Washington.
In March, WSSU's board of trustees voted to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy. Hanes said that the school started taking a close look at including sexual orientation in the policy about three years ago, soon after he started at the school.
He said that often school administrators at HBCUs have larger worries than sexual orientation, and that was one of the reasons why it took so long for the school to take action. But once trustee members were able to look at the policy change, they approved it unanimously, Hanes said.
"To be perfectly honest, we face a lot of issues at historically black colleges and universities that frankly, majority schools don't have to face," he said. "Sexual orientation is not the most pressing issue. We're working at schools that had to do more with less."
According to a recent Associated Press story, the economic downturn has hit HBCUs harder than other colleges and universities. Enrollments have dropped and endowments are declining. Only three black colleges -- Howard University, Spelman College and Hampton University -- had endowments among the top 300 included in a survey of American public and private colleges, according to The Associated Press.
But the reasons are deeper than financial, others say.
"I think black homophobia is rooted in the fact that our traditional masculine and feminine roles have been under attack for 300 years," said the Rev. Carlton Eversley, who is the pastor of Dellabrook Presbyterian Church and the president of the Minister's Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity.
Black men have historically been denied the opportunity to make enough money to provide for their families, and the idea that black women can raise a family has also been under attack, Eversley said.
"When there are people whose orientation is different or nontraditional, we have a visceral anti-gay, anti-lesbian feeling," he said. "Having said all that, I don't think that condones it."
The issue of gay rights at HBCUs came to a head after a 2002 incident in which a gay student at all-male Morehouse College was beaten by another student with a bat. The gay student's skull was fractured during the beating.
After the incident, the Human Rights Campaign started an initiative focusing on HBCUs, Gaskins said. A gay campus organization was soon established at Morehouse College called Safe Space.
The organization has worked with a number of HBCUs, including Winston-Salem State University, Bennett College, N.C. A&T State University and N.C. Central University.
"There's a lot of work and education that needs to be done," Gaskins said. But he is seeing progress.
Students at Winston-Salem State University established the Gay-Straight Student Alliance last year. Brandon Hughes, the president of the organization and a senior from Charlotte, said he didn't run into much opposition to the group, which recently held a panel discussion on same-sex marriage.
"I know African-Americans are more conservative," he said. "At the same time, as African-Americans, we also are a lot more tolerant than we like to portray."
He said that people who are his age are much more accepting of gay people than older generations. And popular culture is presenting more positive images of gay people.
"The younger generation is a lot more open-minded," he said. "A lot of gays and lesbians are organizing to let people know what we are. This is how we love. You can either accept it or ignore it."
But things aren't going to change overnight, Gaskins said.
"I don't think it's our goal to challenge any long-held historical values of these schools," he said. "Our goal is to just open up the conversation about who we are…. Maybe through that conversation, hearts and minds will change."
Michael Hewlett can be reached at 727-7326 or at email@example.com.
2. The Nevada Sagebrush, May 5, 2009
Mailstop 058, Reno, NV 89557
QSU aims for campus acceptance
By Jay Balagna
For more than 20 years, the Queer Student Union has provided its members a safe place to meet and discuss issues they face or simply to express themselves without fear of judgment or reprisal. For many years, that was its only purpose. Recently, however, the group has become more visible on campus, a move many say is taking the club in the right direction.
“The club went from being a social group to being very politically active,” Joel Bolling, a graduate intern at the Center for Cultural Diversity at the University of Nevada, Reno, said. Bolling served as QSU’s president from 2005-06. “It gives a visibility to the club for people who aren’t involved and shows the community the campus is a safe and accepting place for them to be.”
QSU’s recent political activism includes a counter-protest to the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing of UNR in April and testimony at the Nevada State Legislature during hearings for a bill, SB 283, to legalize domestic partnerships.
“We try to keep things positive with our political events,” QSU President Jeromy Manke said. “I think that’s why we’ve been able to see so much involvement from other entities in the community.”
The political activism is one reason QSU’s membership, which had shrunk to just a handful as recently as a few years ago, is now around 60 members, Bolling said.
“There’s still a privacy element to the club,” Bolling said. “But it gives it a visibility on campus for people that aren’t involved.”
The privacy Bolling is talking about evolved out of a need to keep the identities of QSU members secret for their safety. Since then, it has turned into something much more subtle, Associated Students of the University of Nevada Director Sandy Rodríguez said.
When Rodríguez began working for UNR as the assistant director of ASUN, she said she found that QSU, known then as the Gay and Lesbian Student Alliance, was exempt from some interesting rules.
“The clubs used to have to submit the names and R-numbers of 10 members with their application for club funding,” Rodríguez said. “GLSA’s application only had the name of the president on it. When I asked about it, I was told they were exempt from the rule. The director would attend one meeting a year to make sure they had enough members.”
Now, while the times and locations of meetings are kept secret, it’s not out of fear.
“I think now the discretion is more for the comfort of the members who maybe aren’t out yet,” Rodríguez said.
Even if political activism wasn’t QSU’s traditional role on campus, Manke said it fits into the mission of the group and needs to continue.
“Our goal is to create a positive social atmosphere and part of that is pushing for social equality,” Manke said. “We’re a social and political club on campus and we need to keep fighting for our issues.”
Jay Balagna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. The Maneater, May 5, 2009
372 McReynolds Hall, Columbia, MO 65211
Students rally around fired professor
By Josh Barone
After years of researching HIV/AIDS politics in South Africa, the first country to include sexual orientation in its constitution, Sam Bullington, a transgender male, wanted to take his research in a new direction.
"That was just a role that I had grown increasingly uncomfortable with," he said. "I tried to move away from that and start more intense work on transgender studies."
Bullington is now in his third year as an associate professor in the women's and gender studies department. He failed his tenure review and the department subsequently fired him. Since then, there has been a lot of outcry on campus and internationally, he said.
According to the Collected Rules and Regulations of the UM system, reviews are based on performance criteria and expectations discussed at the time of initial appointment.
For his review, Bullington proposed a more focused study on transgender issues, using his own life as an example.
"I was writing about my own experience of my sex change and kind of the fluidity of gender and sexuality that I experienced through that, making some broader points about gender and sexuality categories and how they operate in society," he said. "I think part of the difficulty with the memoir is a lot of it has to do with really messy issues around gender and sexuality that are considered to be in the realm of the personal and in the realm of the taboo."
When junior Caroline Erickson, Bullington's former student, found out about his termination, she said she and some of her classmates were surprised.
"The wind got knocked out of all of us," she said. "His studies are a great asset to the university, and his absence just really leaves a huge hole in the department and in a lot of our lives."
Senior Julie O'Brien, also one of Bullington's students, was taken aback as well.
"The department is so much of a community, that it was surprising that they would fire one of their own members," she said.
Bullington does not believe the committee's decision was related to his transgender status.
"There are a number of things about the process of my third year review that I don't believe were intentional transgender discrimination, but there were aspects of transgender invisibility," he said.
For example, Bullington's department allows extensions to women who are pregnant, but he was not given the same privilege despite the hormonal changes he experienced during his transition.
Despite coming out as transgender in 1994, Bullington did not begin his transition and hormone treatment until three years ago, around the same time he began his teaching career at MU.
Senior Dakota Raynes is enrolled in an independent study course with Bullington, and he believes transgender faculty members deserve the same courtesy as pregnant women and others who seek extensions.
"Seeking out a trans applicant for a tenure track position should include consideration of how transitioning affects one's personal life and professional development" he said.
Bullington said if there were a will for him to succeed, the board would provide options for him, "even if they were concerned about the particular direction of my scholarship, to give me some direction about how better to meet their expectations," he said.
Although he does not know exactly why Bullington was fired, Raynes said he realizes there are criteria of publications and accomplishments that are necessary for tenure track professors.
"I am not sure the decision was solely based on his research trajectory but also the amount of production he has accomplished," Raynes said of Bullington's termination. "However, the difficulties of publishing trans-oriented work needs to be taken into account."
Because of the confidentiality involved with university personnel matters, department chairwoman Jackie Litt declined to comment.
Bullington said before now, MU's environment has been extremely supportive of the transgender community.
"That is part of why I felt really shocked about this," he said. "I felt really welcomed here as a trans person."
He said that welcoming attitude is why students are reacting so strongly to his termination.
"Because just passing the Include Me campaign, like 82 percent of the students voted to be more welcoming of gender diversity on campus," Bullington said. "I think a lot of what the students were reacting to was the rhetoric that is taught in women's and gender studies, about what that field is about, and then kind of what the choices of the department were. It seemed to be in conflict."
In reaction, O'Brien and some other students have written letters to the department and the dean of the College of Arts and Science in support of Bullington.
"We haven't really gotten any feedback on those," she said. "I really don't think they'll have an impact, but we had to say something or we'd just be bystanders."
This Wednesday, Bullington and other students will march around campus in an act of "truth-telling." He said the march will include any people, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, who feel they have been marginalized.
"My sense of what needed to happen and what I wanted to do for myself was to use the publicity and attention that my situation was getting to shine the light on the situation of all sorts of people who have had very similar experiences," he said. "And then to be able to reclaim the campus, to be able to go to the spaces where people have felt marginalized, and instead of having to be in those spaces alone, to really have the backing of a bunch of people with you."
Senior Asher Kolieboi, who is a former student of Bullington's, said he felt like he lost part of his family when Bullington was fired. He said the support of a group would help people give testimonials.
"It's really empowering," he said. "I think it's just a way for people's voices to be heard."
Erickson said the march is a great way for Bullington to turn something negative into something really positive.
Bullington will go before the committee again for an appeal May 20. He is already committed to teach summer courses, and there is a possibility he will teach at MU next year.
"If you fail tenure, if you get fired along the way, then you are offered a year terminal contract," he said. "So I have the option of teaching here next year. I have yet to decide if I want to do that or not."
4. The Chronicle, May 7, 2009
1255 Twenty-Third Street, N.W., Seventh Floor, Washington, D.C. 20037
College Suspends Student for Working in Gay Pornography
By Sara Lipka
Grove City College, a Christian institution north of Pittsburgh, has suspended a student whom officials found to be working in the gay-pornography industry, reported The Herald, in Sharon, Pa.
The student, John Gechter, told the newspaper that he planned to appeal the one-year suspension, which was a direct result of his work in pornography, a Grove City spokeswoman said today in a statement. Campus officials reportedly discovered Mr. Gechter’s alternate identity, Vincent DeSalvo, when a student browsing the Internet forwarded a few images, via e-mail, to others at the college.
Mr. Gechter “acknowledged that he was employed in the adult entertainment industry and that he knew that violated the student code of conduct,” the college said in its statement. “Throughout this process, his sexual orientation was not a factor in the decision.”
Grove City’s student handbook lays out possible penalties for specific infractions, including a suspension of at least one week for “possessing pornographic material” or “premarital sex (heterosexual or homosexual),” as well as “throwing soap” or “water battles.”
With approval from an administrative council, the college “reserves the right to issue immediate suspension or dismissal … where the safety of life, property, or reputation of the college or its members is at stake,” the handbook says.
Mr. Gechter told The Herald that he had been working in pornography for two years to pay his tuition. “When I first came to Grove City, I was pressed for money, and I worked four jobs trying to make ends meet,” he said. While modeling, he was approached by an agent who introduced him to more-lucrative jobs in pornography, the newspaper reported.
Grove City’s annual fee for tuition, room, board, and a computer and printer this academic year is $18,514. The college does not accept any form of federal student aid, so as not to be subject to laws and regulations tied to federal funds.
Grove City did not confirm Mr. Gechter’s appeal of his suspension, saying that he had since withdrawn from the college.
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