The performance of the Laramie Project sparked a dialogue for a GLBT “needs assessment.”
University administration recently agreed to a university-wide survey to implement a address the needs of the GLBT community after meeting with Scott Gratson, a GLBT advocate and the director of communications program.
While University Communications said the survey is too early in its planning stages for administrators to comment, Gratson said assessing the experience of the GLBT community on Main Campus is important.
“I think the ultimate [question] is, ‘What is the experience of gender and sexuality on this campus as a whole,’” he said.
Gratson said the survey will aim to provide a “baseline” of how the needs of the GLBT community are being served at Temple.
“We have to get some kind of foundation baseline in order to understand how to move forward,” he said.
Gratson said the opinions of student groups and faculty members are important, but they can’t serve to represent the university as a whole, which is one of the main reasons for the survey.
“Maybe everything is groovy, maybe everything is great, maybe everything is awful,” Gratson said. “We don’t know until we access that information.”
Ash Yezuita, the president of Purple Circle and events coordinator for the Queer Student Union, said the university is reliant on a “needs assessment,” for the Temple’s GLBT community.
“LGBT relations can be improved on campus through open dialogue between students and administration,” Yezuita said. “A needs assessment would be a good way to find out what [GLBT] students are currently looking for from Temple.”
Gratson said the groundwork for the survey was laid last fall when the theater department put on its production of “The Laramie Project,” a performance about Matthew Shepard, whose 1998 death brought national attention to hate-crime legislation.
“We had a kind of symposium, if you will,” he said. “It was a symposium that then segued into a formal debate, which then segued back to a discussion at the end that was held through the school.”
Gratson said his meeting with President Ann Weaver Hart was a result of the concern to address the needs of the community after the recent string of suicides by GLBT youth. He praised Hart for her genuine concern and willingness to work on this issue, calling her cooperation to work on the issue, “amazing.”
“The immediacy of this and her honest, extreme concern was evident. The one way I would describe her response was ‘emphatically interested’ in making sure that our students feel included on this campus,” Gratson said.
“She broke to the topic immediately, as soon as I walked into the office. After the ‘hello’s‘ and general salutations, it was get-down-to-business [and] ‘What are we doing to make sure that we understand how to best include all of our students, including GLBTQ students?’” Gratson said.
Both Gratson and Yezuita expressed concern that the promotion of GLBT relations and rights on campus can burden students and currently relies too much on student organizations.
“[QSU] is attempting to do some work,” Yezuita said. “Regardless, the promotion of LGBT relations on campus seems to heavily rely on student organizations, which again, can be taxing on the student-leaders and students aiding these events.”
Gratson said GLBT services and representation at Temple has not improved in seven years but added that the survey could be a start in making the GLBT student-community feel more comfortable.
Yezuita also said QSU and Purple Circle do not speak to everyone on Main Campus.
“Student organizations, such as QSU, only reach a certain population of people on campus,” Yezuita said. “It is important for relations related to the LGBT population to also aid the students that are not a part of these groups.”
The survey is in its beginning stages, and Gratson suggested that it could be conducted in a similar way to the race and ethnicity survey that is currently taking place on Temple’s website.
Sean Carlin can be reached at email@example.com.