Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2010.05.30
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. The Seattle Times - Coming out proves costly for ROTC cadet
2. North by Northwestern - Coming out Gay Greek
3. The Gainesville Sun - UF professors helped research 'don't ask, don't tell' policy
4. The Chronicle of Higher Education - Gay College Presidents to Meet in Chicago
5. The Chronicle of Higher Education - University Presidents Push for End to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
6. Edge Boston - Oregon College Students Apologize for Anti-Gay Graffiti
7. The State Press (Arizona State University) - Employee Non-Discrimination Act protects transgender community
1. The Seattle Times, May 24, 2010
PO Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Coming out proves costly for ROTC cadet
By Eric Ferreri
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Though she's long wanted to be an Army doctor, Sara Isaacson says she also wants to live an honest life. So on Jan. 25, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill ROTC cadet handed her commander a written statement revealing that she is a lesbian.
Doing so ended her military career and will likely cost her more than $79,000. That's what she owes the federal government, which was paying for her schooling — at out-of-state rates — while the Wisconsin native went through her military training.
"I've dreamed since I was 13 of a career as a military officer," Isaacson said last week. "But I knew I wouldn't be OK with myself if I had to lie every day."
Since outing herself, the 21-year-old has become a fresh face in the national movement that opposes the "don't ask, don't tell" law, which mandates the dismissal of openly gay, lesbian or bisexual members of the military.
Isaacson has been to Washington twice to lobby members of Congress, and a national group that provides legal counsel to service members is using her story to condemn the law.
Isaacson realized last fall that she is a lesbian. There was no moment of epiphany, just a slow light turning on to finally provide her some clarity. She was in her seventh semester at UNC-CH, a senior enjoying her ROTC leadership role.
If she had stayed quiet, she would have graduated this year and been commissioned — an ambition she's held since hearing stories from her grandfather, an Army doctor in post-World War II Okinawa, Japan.
Although the don't ask, don't tell rule prohibits the military from asking service members about their sexuality, it also mandates that gays not make their orientation public. Isaacson said the law would have forced her to evade questions or situations or even to lie about them. For example, she couldn't list a partner as next of kin on official documentation, she said.
Although Isaacson believed she was straight until last year, in high school in suburban Milwaukee, she was involved in the distribution of a controversial "Heterosexual Questionnaire." It asked students questions like "When did you decide you were a heterosexual?" according to a local news report at the time.
Drawn by a strong undergraduate sciences program, Isaacson chose UNC-CH over the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Northwestern University. She was among the top five students in a high-school class of 215.
Along with her ROTC classes and early-morning workouts three days a week, the chemistry major has been a resident assistant, worked with a sexual-assault prevention group and played the piccolo in the marching band.
She does not have a partner.
In his first State of the Union Address, Obama announced his desire to repeal don't ask, don't tell, and the Pentagon began a yearlong study of the ramifications. Nearly 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed onto a bill that would repeal the law.
Administration officials now expect Congress to move ahead this week even though advocates on both sides say it's not clear there are enough votes to lift the 1993 ban.
Under a proposal emerging from talks at the White House, Congress would remove the Clinton-era don't ask, don't tell law even as the Pentagon continues an ongoing review of the system. Implementation of policy for gays serving openly would still require the approval of Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen. How long implementation might take was not known.
Activists met at the White House on Monday with administration officials who are trying to broker a compromise.
Since 1994, about 13,500 members of the military have been dismissed under the policy, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the Washington-based organization that has used Isaacson's story in its fight for repeal of the policy.
Though the financial implications are jarring, Isaacson said she isn't trying to get out of the repayment.
Her case is now being considered by Cadet Command, the military office that runs ROTC programs nationwide. There, someone will decide how she'll repay the $79,265.14 that the government has spent on her education.
The terms of Isaacson's deal with the military are clear, said Mike Johnson, a Cadet Command spokesman.
"To accept the scholarship, the kid signs a contract and agrees to serve X years in the U.S. Army," he said.
Even after coming out, Isaacson had a chance to get back into the Army's good graces.
"A lot of college students are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives," said her commander, Lt. Col. Monte Yoder, who directs the ROTC program at UNC-CH. "I asked her if she wanted to withdraw her letter. But she clearly wanted not to be involved in the military at all."
Isaacson said she does want to serve, if the Army will accept her as she is.
Isaacson now needs a fifth year at UNC-CH — and some financial aid — to get her degree. Medical school is still an option, but she's also become interested in activism. Her father, Ken Isaacson, has spent a lot of time brainstorming solutions.
"It's disappointing that our country doesn't want her," he said. "But she will find some way to make her mark."
2. North by Northwestern, May 25, 2010
Coming out Gay Greek
By Sarah Davidson
Last spring, the assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at Northwestern invited the presidents of every campus Greek chapter to a national Out and Greek conference in Chicago. No one responded. That was when assistant director Danny Miller decided it was time to have a conversation about sexuality and the Greek system. After sharing his concerns with a few students, they formed the Northwestern Greek Allies (NGA).
“The main purpose of NGA is to make LGBT students feel like they’re welcome in the Greek system and that they can have a positive experience in a fraternity or sorority,” Miller said.
At the first meeting last spring, 25 people showed up to hear a panel of LGBT students and ask questions. Now, almost a year after the group’s formation, it’s slowly gaining momentum. With just a few members and bi-weekly meetings, NGA isn’t planning any large-scale social justice action items, but rather focusing on the small steps they can take to increase tolerance in the community.
In observance of National Day Against Homophobia last week, the group’s leader, SESP senior Becca Cadoff, gave a presentation to all the presidents of the Panhellenic sororities. She then handed out bags of bracelets made of braided rainbow yarn to pass out to members of each sorority. NGA has given the same presentation to many of the fraternity and sororities on campus. The group is even planning a poster campaign to combat the use of offensive language on campus.
But perhaps the most significant impact NGA is making on campus is through the Safe Space program, a seminar which teaches fraternity and sorority members how to be a supportive friend for a member who is LGBT or questioning. After someone completes the program, they can place a decal on their door to show the chapter that their room is a safe space. NGA has trained 55 people so far.
“With LGBT issues it’s a hidden identity,” Miller said. “You wouldn’t know by looking at someone that they’re gay, and that makes it hard for the Greek community. Safe Space tries to show you how to be a friend to someone who wants to come out.”
“The point is to try to force people to think about these issues,” Weinberg senior and group member David Weintraub said. “Obviously as widespread change it’s hard. We can’t force all chapters to attend, some aren’t going to listen, but if it has change for a couple people that’s definitely positive.”
McCormick senior Rob Metzler said he hopes people will complete the Safe Space training because there might be people in a chapter who need to come out but don’t know how.
“Someone who is gay or questioning could really, really thank you someday for completing the training,” he said. “Your best friend could be gay and you don’t know it. People should do it to be there for their friends.”
Considering the historically homoerotic nature of Greek rituals,* it’s hard to figure out where gay students can fit in, especially on a campus where Greek life is so pervasive.
“Hazing has been historically connected to homoeroticism,” said Northwestern gender studies and sociology professor Héctor Carrillo. “What we have to think about is what frat culture is like today, and how easy it may now be for gay people to come out and still be accepted by their brothers.”
Some schools even have LGBT-themed fraternities and sororities. For example, Alpha Lambda Zeta is a sorority for lesbians and Delta Phi Upsilon is for gay men of color. Such chapters have been colonized at many colleges across the country, from Arizona State University to Syracuse University.
Since Northwestern offers no such option, Miller said that NGA has been talking about trying to change the heterocentric nature of Greek life by rethinking the way houses pair up for events.
“Usually people know what they’re getting into when they rush — they know that fraternities and sororities pair up,” he said. “But why can’t two fraternities pair up for a service project?”
Despite the difficulties that come with being gay and Greek, Metzler and Weintraub both said they’ve had positive experiences in their houses.
“I feel like I joined the house that was right for me,” Metzler said. “If I had to change one thing, though, I would tell people that they can change how their friends talk to each other. If they’re dropping ‘faggot’ and stuff, you can talk to them about it because they’re your friends.”
The main challenge NGA faces, though, is gaining membership and involvement going forward. With Cadoff graduating and the group’s co-leader, Weinberg sophomore Max Sutton-Smolin, going abroad in the fall, the group will have to find new leadership.
SESP sophomore Sammy Kaiser, another group member, said she wants to see more membership going forward.
“It’s important for people to realize that being in a group like this doesn’t say anything about you except that you’re forward-thinking,” she said. “In high school, being in Gay-Straight Alliance meant you were gay. I hope that isn’t an issue for Greek Allies, but if it is, people should know that’s not the case.”
“It’s a cause that I wish that more people — especially gay members in fraternities — would get involved in,” Weintraub said. “It’s important for each subsequent year to tell freshmen that they shouldn’t make the decision to rush or not solely because they’re gay.”
* The above has been changed from “Greek life” to “Greek rituals” to clarify the intended message, which deals with the homoeroticism of some hazing practices. Thanks to commenters Vince and m for pointing out the confusing phrase.
3. The Gainesville Sun, May 26, 2010
2700 SW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32608-2015
UF professors helped research 'don't ask, don't tell' policy
By Nathan Crabbe
A compromise on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is imperfect, but might be the best chance for repeal under the political circumstances, according to a University of Florida law professor who has studied the issue.
"The problem is that nobody wants to be seen as responsible for repealing 'don't ask, don't tell,'" said law professor Diane Mazur.
Congress is expected to consider legislation this week to repeal the policy banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. But the repeal would only go into effect after a Pentagon study on the impact of the repeal is finished later this year and President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen sign off on the change.
Mazur said the plan essentially shifts responsibility for the repeal from Congress to the military.
"It's not really changing the rules, it's changing the umpire," she said.
Mazur serves as co-legal director of the Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a research institute that has studied the issue of gays in the military. She said research suggests that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy causes more problems than it potentially solves.
"I think 'don't ask, don't tell' turns off a lot more people to the military than it attracts," she said.
She said she's concerned that the Pentagon study will turn out to be a poll of the opinion of service members rather than a study on the impact of the change. She pointed to research commissioned by the Palm Center and done in part by another UF faculty member, associate professor of psychology Bonnie Moradi, as being a study of the latter issue.
Moradi's study examined data that suggested that having gay or lesbian soldiers in units had no major impact on military discipline.
"That's how you do a study. A study is not asking an 18-year-old, 'Gee, what do you think?'" Mazur said.
President Clinton introduced the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 1993 as a compromise to completely lifting the ban on gays in the military. The policy has led to the discharge of service members who openly acknowledge their homosexuality. Obama had pledged to repeal the ban.
Mazur's legal research offered possibilities for Obama or Gates to limit enforcement of the policy in the absence of action by Congress. In March, Gates announced new rules making it harder to discharge gay service members.
Mazur, a former U.S. Air Force captain, said implementing broader changes to the policy has been more difficult because opponents portray them as anti-military. She said such a position conflicts with the civilian control of the military proscribed in the U.S. Constitution.
"The point of our system is that we as civilians are supposed to decide what kind of military we want to have," she said.
4. The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 27, 2010
1255 Twenty-Third St, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037
Gay College Presidents to Meet in Chicago
By Paul Fain
Openly gay or lesbian college presidents are few and far between. But their numbers are growing, and a group is forming to bring them together in a city where they aren't so rare: Chicago, which has three openly gay college chiefs.
Raymond E. Crossman, president of the Adler School of Professional Psychology, and Charles R. Middleton, president of Roosevelt University, helped to organize the meeting, which will be held August 6 and 7 at their two campuses. They hope the new group will provide professional support for "out" presidents, as well as a possible platform for future advocacy.
Mr. Middleton said the meeting would be a venue where "we don't have to talk in code; we can be blunt with each other." And while leaders who attend will discuss their shared experiences as gay presidents, he said, the group will also tackle issues all presidents face, like budgets and student retention.
The group's planning committee of four presidents started by thinking of all the openly gay and lesbian chief executives in American higher education that they could—a total of only 21. That number is larger, however, than the 11 identified by The Chronicle in 2007. And there are several recent hires among them, including presidents at Grinnell College and Montgomery College. Perhaps most notable was the 2008 hiring of Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
"We are starting to populate all the different categories of higher education," said Mr. Crossman. He and other gay leaders felt that a "critical mass" had been reached and that it was time to create a formal group.
There are many openly gay administrators at the vice-president and dean levels, but progress remains slow in the presidency.
"There are so few at the very top level," Mr. Crossman said. "That's where the prejudice exists."
Several barriers may prevent the appointment of an openly gay president, including skittish governing boards that fear the alienation of donors or state lawmakers. And gay and lesbian leaders say that vice presidents often choose to avoid the scrutiny that comes with being a candidate for a presidency, or might stay in the closet throughout their career.
Mr. Crossman and Mr. Middleton said the group could help develop talent, much as other efforts have cultivated future presidents among women, and blacks and other minority groups. Given the large number of retirements among baby boomers, they said, the time is ripe for a substantial increase in the number of openly gay college presidents.
"You can't take away any group" from the talent pool, said Mr. Middleton. "We should be part of the conversation."
On the agenda will be the role of partners, who were invited to join presidents at the meeting. Same-sex partners face unique challenges in negotiating campus communities, said Mr. Crossman. And the issue is changing as more states legalize gay marriage.
About half of the invited presidents have said they will attend. And the group's organizers said they hope it will become an annual meeting.
5. The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 27, 2010
1255 Twenty-Third St, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037
University Presidents Push for End to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
Five university presidents have written a letter to members of Congress asking for the repeal of the policy that prevents openly gay individuals from serving in the military. The presidents of Cornell University, Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin, Syracuse University, and New York University call the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy "detrimental to both our students and the nation." The House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee are likely to vote on the repeal of the policy today.
6. Edge Boston, May 28, 2010
434 Massachusetts Avenue #501, Boston, MA 02118
Oregon College Students Apologize for Anti-Gay Graffiti
By Kilian Melloy
Hate crime--or simple prank that got out of hand? Two students at Southern Oregon University, one of them a theater major, have apologized for scrawling graffiti demeaning to gays on the wall of a "gender neutral" floor in a dormitory.
The two young men, Blake Adkins and Kevin Novotny, say that they had no intention to harass anybody, and now seek to rehabilitate themselves through an apology and volunteer work at the university’s GLBT center, reported southern Oregon newspaper the Mail Tribune on May 28.
"We already had markers in our hands and we started to draw stuff on the walls, and it escalated," Adkins recounted, explaining how he and Novotny came to scrawl graffiti that one student said made some feel unsafe. Said Adkins, "We’re good people--we just made a mistake. It was a reckless act. It wasn’t supposed to be a hate crime or anything like that. It was a poor choice of words.
"Kevin and I would like to say that we’re deeply and sincerely sorry to all that were affected," the student added.
"Absolutely," seconded Novotny.
"We are voluntarily doing things in a positive manner to show that we are good citizens and we do care and love everyone," Adkins insisted, referring to the letters of apology he and Novotny have said they will write to every one of the residents on the affected floor and the hours of volunteering the two plan to put in at the GLBT center.
The two faced charges in the incident, pled guilty, and paid a fine, but they may still face punishment from the university’s administration.
The university’s vice president for student affairs, Jonathan Eldridge, said that the two students might "receive anything from a warning to permanent dismissal" over the incident, which involved at least one dorm building and possibly a second as well. The graffiti sparked student involvement in denouncing anti-gay harassment and intimidation, a May 28 article in local; newspaper the Ashland Daily Tidings reported.
The incident took place in the wake of a Feb. 1 incident in which the office space of a GLBT student organization at another Oregon university was attacked with graffiti. Advocate.com reported on that incident in a Feb. 2 posting.
The incident occurred at the University of Oregon in Eugene. A person or persons unknown spray-painted a large swastika on a wall in the office of the school’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Alliance. A computer was also damaged by paint. The vandalism occurred not long after the university hosted a hate group, the Pacifica Forum, on its campus. The group, which sponsored a discussion about the swastika--a symbol widely associated with the Nazis, but which in ancient India was regarded as an auspicious marking--was allowed on campus under the school’s free speech policy.
7. The State Press (Arizona State University), May 29, 2010
950 S Cady Mall, Tempe, AZ 85287-1502
Employee Non-Discrimination Act protects transgender community
By Andrew Hedlund
Amid the debate over the new health care law, financial regulatory reform and President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, some important legislation can fall through the cracks.
One such bill is the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. This bill is notable because if passed it would protect transgender people from discrimination in the workplace.
The transgender community needs protection under the law and this bill would accomplish that. However, there is resistance from some members of Congress. This is baffling. Our elected officials have the chance to ensure all citizens of this country are treated fairly but some are balking at this responsibility.
The Blue Dog Coalition, which is made up of conservative and moderate Democrats, are among those voicing opposition.
Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., the chief whip for the coalition told the Washington Post this controversial vote would be a “mistake” due to the country’s partisan atmosphere.
The Blue Dogs are not only in their opposition. Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., believes that “if the transgender language is included, that’s just too far,” according to the congressman’s spokesperson.
The conservative Traditional Values Coalition has built a Web site in opposition to the bill. The headline on its home page reads, “Do you want men dressed as women teaching your kids?”
Reps. Shuler and Campbell do not seem to understand this bill is imperative. Transgender people who have been victims of discrimination could care less about the political climate or whether it is an election year.
My experience with transgender people has been nothing but positive. I saw Kate Bornstein, a celebrity in the LGBTQ world, when she gave a guest lecture on campus. Born a Jewish male, Bornstein had sex reassignment surgery in 1986. She shared her life with the audience – her bout with Scientology and the hardships she faced as a transgender person. Amazingly, Bornstein did it all with a smile on her face and made the crowd laugh.
The audience consisted of many members of the LGBTQ club on campus, and perhaps there were even a few transgender people in the audience.
Regardless, the students in that lecture hall were incredibly kind.
Now I would like to address the question posed by the Traditional Values Coalition. Yes, I would like men dressed as women teaching my kids. If that is the only way to instill the American values of acceptance and inclusiveness, then so be it. Until then, I will put my faith in the Democratic leaders in Congress to do the right thing by passing this bill.
Reach Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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