Temple University is not doing enough to address issues concerning sexual minorities on campus, according to student leaders of groups representing the University’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.
“Temple University is very much behind when it comes to addressing issues of sexual orientation,” said Charlie Mumford, president of the GLBT group S-flag.
“This is why we formed groups like S-flag in the first place…to advocate for the queer community and reach out to the straight community.”
The leaders say that sexual minorities are often subject to everything from insensitivity to their sexual orientation to outright harassment.
Some members of the GLBT community say it is more a problem of insensitivity than outright malice.
“I get called a dyke all the time,” said freshman Lauren Overton, who also said she had not experienced any serious problems with discrimination.
“But I guess that’s part the problem, isn’t it? We don’t take it seriously. People throw around words like ‘fag’ and ‘dyke’ like it’s nothing.”
But GLBT leaders also said that this insensitivity to sexual minority issues extends to authority figures on campus as well.
According to Mumford, some University instructors have treated the GLBT community with disdain.
Mumford did not name anyone specifically, but claimed that “some professors aren’t willing to make announcements about GLBT events” and that others were openly disrespectful of sexual minority issues.
“Can you imagine being in an environment where your professors are making fun of you?,” said Mumford.
Efforts to promote sensitivity have proven frustrating. Temple Lambda Alliance President Christina Molieri once tried to organize a GLBT sensitivity workshop for resident assistants to use in dormitories. Sexual minorities who live in dormitories are often subject to ridicule or even threats.
But although one resident assistant listened to her proposal, Molieri was not invited to participate in the workshop.
“I’m sorry, but how can a straight person educate other straight people about GLBT issues,” she said.
“At the very least, I should be participating, if not running the workshop.”
Experiences like this have prompted GLBT leaders to push both Temple Student Government (TSG) and the University administration to devote more resources to sexual minority issues.
Mumford said there was a need for a student support center for GLBT students as well as a full-time coordinator devoted exclusively to GLBT issues.
“Right now the needs of the queer community are being met by a variety of student organizations,” said Mumford.
“But they are just that, student organizations, and they can’t meet everyone’s needs.”
Mumford said that TSG has already agreed to create a cabinet position for GLBT issues for the next academic year.
“TSG has given us above and beyond the help we needed,” he said. “We’d be lost without them.”
But Mumford expressed frustration with a meeting he had with Dean of Students James Fitzsimmons two weeks ago at which the S-flag leader outlined his proposals.
“One of the hardest things about this is when you go into a meeting and you have to educate people about GLBT issues,” said Mumford.
Fitzsimmons said that he hoped that “any meeting with a group like S-flag would prove to be educational.”
He acknowledged the need for a coordinator to work on GLBT issues, but said that it probably would not be a position that would be devoted exclusively to GLBT issues.
“The most likely scenario is that we’d have some who’s already in the administration take up these additional duties,” he said.
Fitzsimmons also expressed doubts about the need for the University to create student centers dedicated to any particular minority or special interest issues.
“We haven’t to really put our heads together about this,” he said.
“We certainly won’t have time to do this before exams are over. But we’ll be in touch with students over the summer, and we’ll be able to deal with these issues then.”
Jerome Montes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.