Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.06.07
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. New York Times - Harvard to Endow Chair in Gay Studies
2. Miller-McCune - Gay Men on Campus: Smart, Studious, Involved
3. San Jose Mercury News - At SJSU, a new home, generous gift for LGBT students
4. Inside Higher Ed – Quick Takes: Sexual Orientation and the College Experience
5. Yale Daily News - Harvard becomes first university to create gay studies chair
6. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - UAF student group pushes anti-discrimination measure for gays
1. New York Times, June 3, 2009
620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018
Harvard to Endow Chair in Gay Studies
By Jacques Steinberg
Harvard University will endow a visiting professorship in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, a position that, it believes, will be the first endowed, named chair in the subject at an American college.
The visiting professorship was made possible by a gift of $1.5 million from the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, which will formally announce it at a dinner on Thursday, after Harvard’s commencement exercises. With the gift, Harvard said it would regularly invite “eminent scholars studying issues related to sexuality or sexual minorities” to teach on campus for one semester, according to a draft of a university press release.
The chair is being named for F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard scholar and literary critic who “stands out as an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-20th century,” according to the release.
Professor Matthiessen, the release added, “leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room” in 1950, despondent, at least in part, over the death several years earlier of his partner, the artist Russell Cheney.
While lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies represents a relatively new field of study at American universities, Harvard’s would not be the first such endeavor. The first university program in gay and lesbian studies was established at the City University of New York in 1986, according to Harvard’s research.
In the late 1990s, Yale rejected the offer of an endowed chair in gay studies from Larry Kramer, the writer and AIDS activist. Yale later accepted $1 million from Mr. Kramer’s brother, Arthur Kramer, a money manager, to help finance what had become a growing gay and lesbian studies program.
2. Miller-McCune, June 3, 2009
P.O. Box 698, Santa Barbara CA 93102
Gay Men on Campus: Smart, Studious, Involved
By Tom Jacobs
Gay male college students are more motivated to learn and more likely to be mentored than their straight counterparts, and their above-average grades suggest this kind of engagement makes a real difference.
Those are some of the findings of an intriguing new look at sexual minorities on American college campuses, which has just been published in the journal Economics of Education Review. According to the research, which is apparently the first of its kind, gay male undergraduates appear to be doing quite well: Their grade point average is about 2 percent higher than that of straight males at the same institution.
"The thing that really comes out (in the data) is that gay men see academic work as more important than heterosexual men," said study author Christopher Carpenter, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of California, Irvine. "They were 1.41 times more likely to say their academic work was important.
"That could explain the GPA effect," he added. "It's plausible that if gay men perceive their academic work as more important, then they're trying harder."
Gay men also spend 40 to 50 percent more time doing volunteer work or participating in student organizations, according to Carpenter's findings. "It's possible that these organizations they belong to could include fraternities," he said. "But I doubt that, because gay men were less likely to say participating in parties was important to them."
Another possible factor in their success rate: Gay male students were about 13 percent more likely than straight male students to report they had a faculty member or administrator they could talk to about a problem.
For women, the picture is far more mixed. "Like gay men, lesbians and bisexual women were much more likely to find politics and the arts important," Carpenter said. "The (above-average levels of) connectedness and activism were the same for lesbians and gay men.
"But the other findings were definitely different. Those differences were driven almost entirely by those women who have had both male and female sex partners. Behavioral lesbians appear to do no worse, no better academically than behavioral heterosexuals.
"But behavioral bisexuals (who are overwhelmingly female) do a lot worse. They spend significantly less time studying. They're much less satisfied with their academic work. They think their academic work is less important than do other women. Bisexual women are not having as good a college experience."
The study provides interesting context for previous findings that homosexuals in the U.S. are far more likely to be college educated than heterosexuals. A 2004 New Jersey study found 52 percent of same-sex couples in that state include at least one partner with a college degree, compared to 42 percent of opposite-sex couples.
Carpenter obtained his data from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, one of the few surveys to include questions about students' sexuality. "In 1997, 1999 and 2001, they did a nationally representative survey of alcohol use on college campuses," he said. "They had high-quality data from 120 colleges and universities, with thousands of students responding. That's the data subset I used. (Among a wide range of questions) they asked if you have had sex, and if so, was it with males exclusively, females exclusively, or both."
The 2001 survey, using those criteria, found that 4.7 percent of male students and 6.2 percent of females were gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Carpenter is quick to concede that reporting on amorous experiences at that stage in life is far from a definitive statement about sexual orientation. For women in particular, having a same-sex partner in college is not necessarily an indication of one's adult sexuality, and he cautioned about drawing conclusions based on these responses.
"Female sexuality appears to be far more complicated than male sexuality," he said.
Nevertheless, he was thrilled to stumble across this data, since - apparently due to privacy concerns - there are surprisingly few surveys that ask students about their sexual orientation. He hopes more such surveys will be taken in the future and they will break down what specific organizations these students belong to.
Such information would be "really relevant when considering college and university resource allocations," he noted. "If (as the increased level of mentorship suggests) we found the positive effects for gay men were driven by access to gay/lesbian/bisexual resource centers, that might mean you should invest more in those centers."
Or, at the very least, make sure they survive in an era of cutbacks.
"Clearly, gay/lesbian resource centers have become more prominent on campuses over the past couple of decades," Carpenter noted. "We could be observing that effect. They may increase the connectedness of sexual minority students."
Carpenter's findings reinforce several stereotypes: Lesbians are more likely to be involved in athletics than straight women, and gays, lesbians and bisexuals all express more interest in the arts than straight students. Participation in cultural activities is particularly important to gay men, which raises the question of a possible connection between creative expression and academic achievement. Numerous studies have suggested that exposure to the arts, particularly music, helps cognitive development in children; perhaps its impact extends all the way into college.
Interest in the arts may also help explain a puzzling disconnect between gay men's college achievements and later incomes.
"In a California study, I found no difference in earnings between self-identified gay men and straight men," Carpenter said. "But there are other studies that find gay men earn a lot less. I don't think the jury is in yet.
"I find gay men place a lot more importance in the arts. Arts occupations are not well paid, and gay men are disproportionately likely to be employed in those professions."
In other words, when it comes to income, your GPA may be less important than whether you earn an MBA or an MFA.
3. San Jose Mercury News, June 2, 2009
750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95190
At SJSU, a new home, generous gift for LGBT students
By Jessie Mangaliman
When Larry Arzie and David Stonesifer were students at San Jose State in the 1960s, the closest thing to a gay and lesbian center for students was a place called Building K.
There, Arzie recalled with a barely contained huff, students who were wrestling with sexual identity were advised to undergo psychiatric counseling.
That's no longer practiced at San Jose State University, and gay and lesbian students have long been part of academic and campus life. Seven months ago, the university opened the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, housed in a two-story Mission-style building near San Salvador and 10th streets.
It is the university's first center for gay and lesbian students. Arzie and Stonesifer, a Los Gatos couple who went on to become successful business owners and philanthropists, gave the center a surprise and welcome boost last month: a $1 million bequest, money the center will inherit after they die.
Arzie and Stonesifer — former owners of Los Gatos Porch, a home and interior design store — said they hope their gift will help establish a resource center for LGBT students.
"In our time, it was unheard of to have anything like this as a support system for students who are questioning their sexuality," said the 66-year-old Arzie. "What we want to tell kids today is that you don't have to do what David and I did: Do it alone."
SJSU President Jon Whitmore said the generous gift, which comes at a time when many university donors are scaling back, "will go a long way toward supporting our efforts to build upon one of SJSU's greatest assets — our diverse student body."
The first-floor corner office of the LGBT center has become a hub in short order. It is decorated with rainbow-colored streamers and a series of handmade posters used at a gathering to honor transgender men and women who have been killed in the United States in hate crimes.
During the No on Proposition 8 campaign, a group of students working to defeat November's anti-gay-marriage initiative had a place to gather to discuss their views.
"Having a center is like having your own home," said 23-year-old Luis Canales, a junior from Los Angeles who is studying photography, dance and film. "It's like a family meeting place."
For graduate student Drew House, 36, "it gives me a sense that we're part of this university."
Throughout the years, the various gay, lesbian and transgender groups that have come and gone on campus met in the student union. Campus resources for LGBT students have been a patchwork, but the new center, and the added financial boost from Arzie and Stonesifer, 65, can help transform the center as a hub, said Bonnie Sugiyama, the center's assistant director.
It could be a place, she said, where new student leaders can be identified and groomed.
There are only four other campuses in the state university system that have LGBT centers, Sugiyama said.
"I know of no other LGBT center getting money like this," she said. "It showed me the university was serious about their intention to honor the diversity on campus."
Arzie, a 1965 graduate, and Stonesifer, who graduated a year later, met on campus in 1962. The kind of relative openness that students today have about their sexuality is a lifetime apart from their experience, Arzie said.
Recently, Arzie and Stonesifer received a note from a friend who also attended SJSU.
"She told us that she spent 10 years questioning herself. She said if she had the ability then to talk to somebody," Arzie recalled, "her life would have been easier."
"There's an awful lot of people in the same boat," he said. "We need a place for kids today. We want this freedom to continue."
4. Inside Higher Ed, June 5, 2009
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Quick Takes: Sexual Orientation and the College Experience
A new study published in the journal Economics of Education Review explores how students of different sexual orientations have different academic and extracurricular experiences in college. The study, based on surveys involving more than 40,000 students, was conducted by Christopher S. Carpenter, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine. Among the findings about sexual orientation are the following comparisons of gay to straight students:
-Gay male students have higher college grade point averages and perceive their academic work as more important.
-Gay and bisexual males are more likely to report the presence of a faculty member or administrator with whom they could discuss a problem.
-Gay and bisexual males place more importance on participating in student organizations, volunteer activities, the arts, and politics.
-Bisexual females are less satisfied with the education they are receiving and spend less time studying.
-Lesbian and bisexual females place more importance on participation in the arts and politics.
5. Yale Daily News, June 5, 2009
202 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511
Harvard becomes first university to create gay studies chair
By Raymond Carlson
Harvard University announced Thursday that it is creating an endowed visiting professorship in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, staking its claim as the first American university to create such a chair.
The milestone hits a sour note at Yale, given that the University passed up the chance to create such a position more than a decade ago. In 1997, the prominent AIDS activist Larry Kramer ‘57 offered Yale funds to create either an endowed chair in gay and lesbian studies or a student center for LGBT students. The University rejected the offer, sparking a major conflict with Kramer that ultimately garnered national media attention.
At the time, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said Yale’s decision was partly based on the fact that the field of gay and lesbian studies was relatively new to academia.
“Gay and lesbian studies have produced tons of interesting work, but it’s a little hard to know what institutional form it will take 200 years from now,” he said.
Of course, it’s worth noting that, despite the Kramer controversy, Yale has had a long tradition in teaching LGBT studies.
In 1987, the University founded the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center, and although the program has changed its name and structure over the years, the LGBT Studies program has grown considerably over time. In 2001, Kramer’s brother, Arthur Kramer ’49, gave a $1 million gift in Larry’s name to found the Larry Kramer Initiative for Gay and Lesbian Studies, which was closed after five years when the gift was spent.
And over time, Yale has hired prominent scholars related to LGBT studies, most notably George Chauncey ‘77 GRD ‘83, an expert in the history of sexuality and American social history who accepted a teaching position in the History Department in 2006.
Harvard’s new professorial position — to be filled by a different visiting professor each semester — was made possible by a $1.5 million gift from the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, which is composed of LGBT alumni, faculty, staff and students, according to the group’s Web site.
6. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 5, 2009
P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks, Alaska 99707-0710
UAF student group pushes anti-discrimination measure for gays
By Christopher Eshleman
FAIRBANKS — A student-based gay rights group is urging the University of Alaska to update nondiscrimination policies with a measure it said would better protect gay students and friends.
Jessica Angelette, president of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Gay-Straight Alliance, told the university’s Board of Regents on Thursday that its current anti-discrimination rules lack explicit bans on discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” something she indicated leaves university life scarier for gay students and active supporters of gay rights.
Angelette told regents that some students, gay or straight, are harassed after participating in campus events. She said one girl moved out of her dorm room two weeks before classes ended because she was being bullied by her roommate.
“We ... would like to work with the board to have the amending policy (be) the first step in making all campuses safe for every student,” she said.
The university system follows some “interdependent partnership” rules that extend benefits for same-sex couples to employees and faculty. But efforts to explicitly mention sexual orientation in the regents’ nondiscrimination policy — which bans discrimination based on sex, race and other factors — have fallen short at least twice, according to university records.
Angelette said she learned of those failed efforts this spring and started raising the issue to the board.
Joe Hayes, a former regent who spearheaded the most recent attempt in 1996, said board members 13 years ago had been reluctant to expand the policy by adding a new category of people not yet recognized in some similar policies at the national level. Hayes, now a director for the Fairbanks campus’ Alumni Association, said in an interview Thursday he also sensed the topic of homosexuality was too sensitive a topic for some regents to support then.
Cynthia Henry, the regents’ chairwoman, said she encouraged Angelette and another student who raised the issue this spring to keep the board aware of the topic.
“If we continue to hear about it, I’m sure the board will address it,” she said.
The regents are hosting a two-day meeting in Fairbanks.
Contact staff writer Christopher Eshleman at 459-7582.
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