Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast helps members of the LGBTQ+ community feel more comfortable on campus

Monday, November 13, 2017

In recent years, Southeast administrators have been working hard to make sure the campus is safe for members of the LGBT community.

Southeast does not ask students to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity on their housing applications.

“In terms of ‘Is everyone comfortable with their living environment,’” Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success Deborah Below said. “That’s not a question we ask or have ever asked. Students are not required to disclose either of those factors about themselves.”

According to Associate Vice President for Student Life Bruce Skinner, there are only a couple of students who currently live on campus that are transgender.

Skinner said if a student says they identify as a member of the opposite sex when they are signing up for housing, then they will help make accommodations for that student.

“We pull into our system the sex of that individual, male or female,” Skinner said. “And if you don’t ask us for any other kind of accommodations, we will let you go online and choose your roommate.”

Skinner also said if a student does identify as a member of the opposite sex, the university will help that student match their identity with the community they are interested in being a part of.

“We don’t actually have you fill out something to let everyone on the floor know or anything like that,” Skinner said. “It’s between you and one of our professional staff in [Residence Life] to work with you in your accommodations.”

Once students are hired as resident assistants, they go through a couple of different trainings.

“We do an online module with them over the summer where they go through a number of trainings and part of that is how students choose to identify,” Skinner said. “Then we bring in individuals from our counselling services, the LGBT Resource Center or some of our professional staff that have experience in other institution or training in this area who will then talk to our RAs and train them in terms of their job there to make sure the floor is welcoming to all of the residents, that we don’t see any issues of intolerance and if we do, this is how we respond to them.”

Most recently, Skinner said there have been transgender students who have been interested in joining the Greek community.

“I worked with two students specifically this recruitment season who were both interested in joining,” Skinner said. “They were working with the Office [of Greek Life] and we actually had to put together what are the panhellenic nationally consent agreements with regards to transgender.”

Skinner said fraternities were a little more difficult because of the different fraternity's national rules or chapter rules.

Recently Southeast has made gender-neutral bathrooms, allowed students to put their preferred name on both their student IDs and the class roster, as well as moved the LGBT Resource Center from Campus Life and Event Services to the Office of Equity and Diversity under the Assistant to the President Sonia Rucker.

“I think that’s going to help elevate that program,” Below said. “I think that program is doing good work but I think connecting it to her work is also going to be valuable.”

Southeast has also developed an affinity group for the LGBT faculty and staff.

“We see that group has formed, they are also reaching back and trying to support the student population,” Below said. “I think you’re seeing strength from a sort of a variety of angels.”

Below said that it’s hard to say what Southeast will do in the coming years to help make students feel more comfortable.

“New student groups come in, new ideas are brought to us and I think that we continue to strengthen as an institution from listening to our students,” Below said.