Friday, November 5, 2010

LGBT students face challenges on campus [Faris]

By Robert Faris [this is the script for the video, which will be uploaded ASAP]

University is a wonderful place to be for most people, most people go off to school excited to be there. However there are some people who aren’t as confident. Many LGBT students find their skin crawling become extremely stressed out as they prepare for their journey to school.

When most seniors in high school think about going off to college they get really excited however, many LGBT students are anxious about it from day one. Jake, who asked that his real name be withheld, told us that “Going to a liberal college was important to me, it wasn’t the final deciding factor in where I would go, but it was definitely in my mind when I was considering schools.” It is sometimes a hard thing to look at when looking at different schools, because tolerance is not an easily quantifiable thing.

Housing is one of the things that is at the forefront of many LGBT student’s minds. Justin Morris said “I was worried about it a little, but, I mean I didn’t like let it get to me... I mean, deep down it did bother me a little bit”. Ohio University strives to promote a safe, stress, and worry-free living environment for all of its students. It does this through a variety of policies and rules, the main one being that OU makes it extremely easy to switch rooms, and makes it well known to students. Morris said, “I knew that if he made a big deal out of it, I could always just get a new roommate”

Justin Morris’ experience at Ohio University has been a good one so far, he has not had to deal with any adversity yet in his career at OU. Whether or not LGBT students at OU experience discrimination and homophobia can be affected by a lot of factors. Micah McCarey is the Residential Coordinator of the James Residence Hall at OU, he has completed both his undergraduate and graduate studies at OU and is now a full time Ohio University employee. “I think that there certainly are a lot of people on campus who are homophobic”.

Ohio University’s housing preference forms that all students living in residential dorms fill out before the start of each school year ask a lot of questions, however they do not ask about a students sexual orientation. Some universities, including Rutgers University in New Jersey, the site of the high profile suicide of LGBT student Tyler Clementi, do ask this question on their forms. They also take it a step further by asking whether or not student would feel comfortable with the possibility of living with someone of an opposite sexual orientation. However, Micah McCarey believes that even though it may seem like a good idea to some to ask these questions, we shouldn’t. “I think that these questions are too akin to allowing someone to state their preference to not live with someone of the opposite race”. Justin Morris disagrees though, as an openly gay student who lives in a residence hall, he thinks that “if someone clearly does not want to to live with someone who is gay, then i think that would be a good thing to say on your application so you don’t get put with someone you don’t like and then conflict happens”. This is an interesting twist, the students would like the preference to be on the form, while Residential Housing’s view on the issue is the opposite.

The Department of Residential Housing at Ohio University does strive to make itself as tolerant as possible. Residential Housing staff are encouraged to take workshops such as “SafeZone”, which provides training and information to anyone who wants to know more about LGBT issues, regardless of their sexual orientation. It helps people to become walking resources about LGBT issues for when someone may want to talk about them. It can train people to become peer counselors for when someone needs help with an issue in their life.

Simply promoting tolerance is not all Ohio University does to create a good environment for its students, it also has very strict disciplinary policies in place to deal with discrimination on campus. At OU, if a student is found to be discriminating against another student or person, they will be charged with either “A-4 Violation: Mental or Bodily Harm to Others” or a “A-5 Violation: Discrimination” code of conduct violations. An “A” level offense is the most serious violation in the student code of conduct. The punishments for being found guilty of this level of violation can include expulsion on the very first offense.

One of the main groups that works to promote tolerance and provide support for students at Ohio University is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center located in the heart of OU’s student union building. <--WAITING ON INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR AND STUDENT EMPLOYEES-->

Going to University is by far one of the most important factors in getting ahead in life; this is true for almost everyone, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Universities strive to make themselves tolerant, and some there is no magic formula that can create tolerance, but Ohio University seems to have an effective one in place. Justin Morris had this final thing to say, “I love being here, I don’t act any differently than I did at home, I wouldn’t change a thing”.

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