All talk, no action

Quinnipiac needs to make real change to combat anti-LBGTQ sentiments

Lindsey Downey, Contributing Writer

Last weekend, a mother announced on the Quinnipiac Parents Facebook page that her son, Peter Jordan, was withdrawing from the university due to several weeks of targeted harassment in his dorm based on his sexual orientation.

Illustration by Michael Clement

The Quinnipiac University community has rallied behind the response to the incident with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance’s (GSA) petition, which called on the university to make several administrative changes to better support the LGBTQ community. The petition received over 1,700 signatures. While it is encouraging to see such a widespread and fast response, it’s important to note that these issues are not new, and this is not the first attempt to work with the university to improve the social experience for LGBTQ students. 

Quinnipiac’s response, as seen in Tuesday’s email, was too little, too late. President Judy Olian’s email avoided responsibility and made vague and empty promises.

That said, homophobia is not new at Quinnipiac.

Jordan’s story is a familiar one to queer students on campus. Quinnipiac may seem like a welcoming school, but for many of us, just trying to exist here is a struggle.

Resources for LGBTQ students, like gender-neutral bathrooms, housing options and support networks are limited as well as hard to locate. Queer faculty do not have a platform given by the university. When budget cuts were introduced this summer, our minority faculty and staff, including 100% of the LGBTQ public safety officers, were hit the hardest by furloughs and job losses, according to Paul Violano, president of the Public Safety Officer’s Association. Safe Zone training, which prepares faculty and staff to support LGBTQ students, was discontinued by the university years ago.

LGBTQ students are forced to jump through hoops of emails and waiting periods to get basic accommodations. It is even extremely difficult for students to change their name or add their pronouns on Zoom, leaving many misrepresented and misgendered by professors and classmates. Many students do not even know what resources are available to them, as they are not actively promoted by the university, unless you often find yourself reading through our Title IX webpage, which you shouldn’t have to do for simple information.

Even something as simple as using the bathroom can be a source of stress, seeing how the university only has a dozen gender-neutral restrooms spread out across all three campuses, and they are not even in every building.

Students that do know about their limited options still have to fight for things such as a change to their preferred name on a QCard or being in proper housing.

Last year, I wrote about the challenges LGBTQ students face when it comes to housing procedures at Quinnipiac. I spent the rest of the school year working with the Student Government Association (SGA) on a proposal for Residential Life that would create more gender-inclusive housing options for all upperclassmen, LGBTQ-friendly housing and a living-learning community (LLC) for first-year students. But school administration was more interested in telling us reasons it couldn’t happen instead of working with us, so nothing has changed. However, I do wonder if this incident in Irma would have happened at all if Jordan had been able to live with an accepting community on campus.

Our job here as students is to learn and go to classes — the administration is in charge of making sure we have a safe environment and the resources to do that. Currently, it is cultivating an environment that makes LGBTQ students feel alienated and perpetuates the violence against us.

— Lindsey

When I was president of the GSA, it was not uncommon for students to come to the club with questions. While I wish more students came with questions about relationships or more light-hearted topics, far too many would instead come asking for advice on dealing with being uncomfortable on campus or having unaccepting roommates. Many of them would rather go to their peers than ask for the university to do something, and can you really blame them?

The university has no problem hosting town halls to discuss inclusive excellence and diversity, but when it comes to making actual change it consistently falls short. For over a year GSA has been asking administration to do something as simple as complete a short survey for The Campus Pride Index, which allows us to objectively see where the university stands as an LGBTQ supportive institution, and we don’t even have that.

In its statement responding to this incident, Quinnipiac referenced its own 10-Point Plan for Racial Justice. It created the plan in July after a former student created a petition that circulated the community this summer in response to the dozens of stories shared on the QUBobcatsForJustice Instagram page.

This list is just another example of the university’s inaction, as we have yet to see the results of many of these promises. Of course, some of the goals are more long term. Still, it’s disappointing to see something as simple as releasing demographic information on faculty has yet to be completed.

The statement sent out on Oct. 20, did not even mention a plan of action for the school, but it did make sure to blame students’ for their inaction. Olian warned against passive bystanders and asked students to familiarize themselves with school policy, despite the GSA’s statement asking for administrative change.

While is important for students to be active bystanders, it is not solely their responsibility to protect LGBTQ students, or any students. Our job here as students is to learn and go to classes — the administration is in charge of making sure we have a safe environment and the resources to do that. Currently, it is cultivating an environment that makes LGBTQ students feel alienated and perpetuates the violence against us.

Not only that, but it is hard to believe that reporting incidents of bias will actually have an effect when students lack support from the school in the first place.

This begins with things as simple as Resident Assistants (RAs) not feeling empowered enough by existing training to handle incidents like Jordan’s. But it goes as far as the school not accurately reporting the number of reported hate crimes on campus in its 2018 Clery Report. In addition to that, the university had known about the incidents happening in Irma for weeks but only now decided to seriously investigate it.

Olian’s statement went on to mention an LGBTQ fellowship position that has yet to be filled and closed out with an uninspiring call for students to be given basic rights and respect. While these are two things that LGBTQ students are not guaranteed here at Quinnipiac, it is not ambitious enough for the university to start its plans there. We need tangible change.

We are tired of being brushed over and having to fight and protest for an iota of respect. The reforms listed in GSA’s official statement were not “recommendations” as stated in the school’s response. Rather, we consider these demands, the bare minimum that Quinnipiac can do to show that it is on our side. We are tired of being met with silence, and we won’t stop fighting until our campus is a safe place for all members of the LGBTQ community.