L.G.B.T. support and acceptance increase on campus
Published: Sunday, April 10, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 16:05
A recent poll revealed a greater acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community, a trend echoed on Baruch's own campus, where there has been an increase in awareness of L.G.B.T. issues.
The poll, conducted by ABC/Washington Post, showed that 53 percent of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriages, indicating a shift in traditional values.
The issue of gay intolerance became a serious topic of discussion late last year when Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly streamed live footage of Clementi engaging in a gay sexual encounter.
This prompted a serious discussion and an outpouring of sympathy nationally, including here at Baruch College. To bring awareness to gay discrimination, several clubs and organizations hosted events including LGBT Tolerance Day, Spirit Day on Facebook, a candlelight vigil in memory of Clementi, a Dare to Engage town hall, and a Diversity Expo, in which gay acceptance in the workplace was one issue touched upon.
Around this time, Dr. Ben Corpus, vice president of student affairs, sent out an email to the student body encouraging them to support the gay community by participating in events organized for this purpose and to demonstrate their opposition to bullying.
The unfortunate incident was an eye-opener to the hatred and intolerance that exists toward the L.G.B.T. community and it also made straight students more willing to openly show their support.
"It's more like an unspoken acceptance," said senior Andrea Misir, G.L.A.S.S. member, about the atmosphere that exists at Baruch.
"I would majorly accredit this [acceptance] to diversity education, gay-straight alliances, as well as gay or lesbian students, faculty, and staff for having the courage to [come] out," said junior Jason Robertson, G.L.A.S.S. member.
Dr. Carl Aylman, former student life director, noticed a shift in views toward the L.G.B.T. community change throughout his 32 years here.
"Over the past three decades, the ability of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual students to participate in extra and co-curricular life at Baruch College has grown," Aylman said in an email.
Even the administration has done their part. "The President has joined a city-wide task force, spearheaded by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, CUNY Chancellor Goldstein and NYU President Sexton to develop safer and inclusive environments for the L.G.B.T. population is indicative of the direction that our institution is headed in supporting this initiative. Dr. Corlisse Thomas shares that responsibility with him," said Shadia Sachedina, student life director.
For the past few years Baruch's Counseling Center has been offering an L.G.B.T. support group, where students can confidentially express their concerns and share their experiences with one another.
Dr. Ryan Androsiglio, a licensed psychologist at the Counseling Center, is currently conducting survey research on the L.G.B.T. climate on campus. He began his research in the 2009-2010 school year and hopes to complete it in the 2010-2011 school year.
"Our research is underway, making it too early to report any results," he said. "But our hypothesis is that over time and as a result of increased education and programming in this area, we will see marked improvements in L.G.B.T. climate on campus."
The Counseling Center has also been continually developing the Safe Zone program, started in fall 2009. "The SafeZone program offers a network of allies pledged to provide a respectful and friendly atmosphere for L.G.B.T students, faculty and staff," said Androsiglio in an email.
These zones are indicated by rainbow-colored Bearcat paws, which are becoming increasingly visible on campus. Anyone interested in joining the program must receive training through the Dare to Engage working group or can stop by NVC 2-255 or contact them at 646-312-4570.
The Dare to Engage Working Group, which consists of students, faculty, and administrators is chaired by Dr. Corlisse Thomas, assistant vice president for student affairs, who is also involved in the city-wide task force alongside Wallerstein. "[The group's] mission is to serve as an advocate to the campus LGBT students and provide resources dedicated to the ongoing exploration of the [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning, and Allied] experience inside and outside of the classroom through campus programming, education, consultation and support," said Sachedina.
So far they have received support from several student clubs and organizations including the Undergraduate Student Government, Graduate Student Assembly, Zicklin OUTsource, Hillel, Muslim Student Association, G.L.A.S.S., and WBMB radio.
The working group has many things still in store. They have been discussing a possible L.G.B.T. Studies minor and are also continuing a recent conversation about religion, homosexuality, and acceptance from relatives by presenting a film series: Trembling Before G-D(March 31), For the Bible Tells Me So (April 7) and A Jihad For Love (April 14).
In reference to the orchestrated effort on campus, Ansiglio feels it is necessarily to give a voice to the L.G.B.T. community.
"We believe that only by creating an open and inclusive environment can the Baruch community grow into an accepting campus, committed to the safety and development of its members in the areas of sexual orientation and expression," he said.