September 26, 2005

GLBT task force recommends changes

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A just-completed study of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender issues at Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers a variety of recommendations in the areas of university policies, academic programs and campus safety.

John M. Dunn, provost and vice chancellor, established the Provost's Ad-hoc Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Issues in October 2004 at the request of the SIU Board of Trustees.

The diverse 18-member committee included representatives of the faculty, the student body, Administrative/Professional staff and Civil Service staff. Manjunath Pendakur, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts, served as committee chair. In addition to coming up with recommendations, some committee members included brief, personal statements about their own feelings, experiences and commitment to GLBT issues.

"The committee has made thoughtful recommendations," Dunn said. "I thank Dr. Pendakur and the entire committee for their work. Over the course of the next few months, the campus as a whole will discuss these ideas and we will move forward appropriately with recommendations."

Dunn has already shared a copy of the report with the SIU President's Office.

Diversity is a core value of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

One of the committee's recommendations relating to the extension of various employee benefits to domestic partners is already in place on the campus. SIUC initially implemented a domestic partnership policy in 1993 that covered areas of sick leave, bereavement leave, family medical leave and use of campus facilities such as Morris Library and the Student Recreation Center.

Last year the University amended that policy to cover partial costs of health and dental care premiums purchased privately by employees to cover their same-sex domestic partners and their partners' children. Those changes also extend SIU's tuition-waiver policies to benefit an employee's partner's children.

Since May 2004 an earlier committee, the Committee for Diversity and Tolerance, has been meeting to counteract bias and hate crimes on campus for all groups, including the GLBT community. That group formed after several staff and faculty members participated in a national program called Stop the Hate.

That committee created a campus protocol for reporting bias incidents, defined as "an act of conduct, speech or expression for which a bias motive is evident as a contributing or causal factor." A bias incident report is available online ( and in hard copy form in various campus offices. Also, there is a bias hotline, 453-BIAS (453-2427), in the Department of Public Safety.

"Our Department of Public Safety has been exemplary in putting together this program," Dunn said. "Officers investigate all reported incidents and they are taken seriously. These early efforts help to address the recently enacted Illinois Human Rights Acts, effective January 2006, that says discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated."

Recommendations for campus awareness and education, benefits and services, employment and University Housing in the task force report include:

• Integrate GLBT concerns into all University documents and publications.

• Develop workshops to address homophobia/transphobia and heterosexism in the residence halls, athletics, fraternities and sororities. In addition, the committee recommends including sexual orientation and gender issues in new student orientation workshops.

• Sponsor lectures, concerns, symposiums and other activities to increase awareness of GLBT issues on campus.

• Provide a clear message to University staff members that it is okay to be "out" and there will be no retaliation for participation in activities that advocate for GLBT awareness and support.

• Respond "visibly and expeditiously" to acts of intolerance directed at GLBT individuals.

• Provide training to campus health care and counseling professionals to increase their sensitivity to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

• Include openly GLBT people on University committees.

• Provide single-stall, gender-neutral restroom facilities in classroom buildings, residence halls and service buildings.

• Actively recruit and retain quality GLBT faculty and staff.

• Provide services to potential employees to assist same-sex partners in securing jobs.

• Make housing available to domestic partners and their children.

Recommendations regarding campus safety and hate crimes include:

• Devote resources in support of the anti-bias campaign, including for appropriate materials to advertise the bias hotline, to promote the anti-bias message and to expand the campus anti-bias training.

• Institutionalize Safe Zone training under the auspices of the associate chancellor for diversity, so faculty, staff and students are aware of the offices and people participating in the campus safe zone network and to whom they can turn for assistance.

Findings and recommendations regarding academic programs include:

• Create an official course of study in GLBT/Queer Studies as an academic major, minor, specialization or concentration. A certificate program "seems the most practicable." The committee reported that there are already courses that have one or more components that deal with GLBT issues.

• Create an interdisciplinary center for the academic study of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and class. A senior faculty member who has been given appropriate release time should direct such a center.

The committee finished its work in mid-August. Dunn said he's taken the past few weeks to carefully consider all aspects of the report. "It's a commendable effort and I am pleased to share the report with the University community for further review and discussion," he said.


(Editor: Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn may be contacted @618/453-5744)