October 31, 2022
Point Foundation - The National LGBTQ Scholarship Fund
Challenging School Policies and Decisions
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Despite great strides in LGBTQ inclusion in recent years at college campuses, nearly one-third of LGBTQ students still report experiencing bullying, harassment, or assault at college. University resources for LGBTQ students – in particular, transgender students – like all-gender bathrooms, a policy of allowing transgender students to change their gender designation, and gender-inclusive housing were reported to be present at their colleges by less than half of LGBTQ students surveyed.
Students taking action to make their schools better places for LGBTQ students may face opposition from their peers, faculty, or university leadership. See the below tips and stories from LGBTQ students who have successfully made an impact by challenging school policies and decisions.
Building an LGBTQ student group can help LGBTQ students feel supported and empowered to make change on campus. Read our Building LGBTQ Community resource for tips to help guide your community-building journey.
Go to community events, make friends with other LGBTQ students, and be involved with affinity groups. The more connected you are to the community, the bigger your voice becomes when you seek to improve your school.
Focus on what your specific community needs – make sure your decisions to challenge school policy are based on issues that have been flagged by your diverse and intersectional LGBTQ student advocate team.
Volunteering at your school or community LGBTQ or diversity center is a great way to see what programs, organizations, and services you can utilize or be involved in to help better your campus and QT community.
Find an LGBTQ center at your school via the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.
Strengthen your network of advocates by building coalitions with student organizations that may serve different communities but share your values.
See the Campaign Workshop’s guide to building coalitions for more information.
"Build a team. I owe everything to the people I have had the privilege of working with….Their insight and diversity of perspective enriched our work in incredibly meaningful ways that also helped us ensure that our work honored intersectionality and the needs of the student body," said Sofia Lawsky, Point Flagship Scholar.
FIND ALLIED FACULTY AND UNIVERSITY LEADERSHIP
Find and recruit faculty who are allies and are willing to open a dialogue with the university administration on issues.
Ask supportive faculty and administrators about how university context, history, or other factors could affect your goals. Have past student organizations lobbied for the same thing? Are university leaders’ decisions constrained by state laws? Which university offices might want to support your ideas and why?
Read how faculty, staff, and students can work together in PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Guide and Rutgers toolkit for campus organizers.
"There are always teachers who feel strongly about the same causes as you," said Emily Odenkirk, Point BIPOC Scholar. "Talk to those people about opportunities at school where you can bring awareness."
Network with university leadership through informational interviews – have friends in power before you need to challenge a policy, decision, or mandate.
Read the Yale Office of Career Strategy’s guide to informational interviewing for tips.
Get the support of your student government. Make sure student government leaders are briefed on your issues and ready to advocate when they next meet with university leaders like the president, provost, or dean of students.
Have tough conversations with university staff and leadership constructively. Learn how to engage in constructive conversations with someone whose beliefs differ from your own.
Learning how to articulate your goals for making your school a safer place for LGBTQ students and positioning yourself as a knowledgeable resource within the community goes a long way towards beginning to dismantle bias and prejudice within a school space.
“During an era characterized by polarization, where visceral reactions and antagonism have become the norm, the capacity to avoid disputation and, instead, achieve tangible growth has grown rarer and rarer," said Ari Pero, Point Flagship Scholar. "People with this skill have learned, through difficult practice, how to listen and draw insight even from arguments they disagree with. They can recognize that a conversation ending in dissension simply means more time to accumulate further rationales for the next encounter. Soon enough, you will find educating others in your everyday life, while continuously gathering diverse perspectives to modify and reinforce their own, to be an effortless act.”
First, know your rights on campus as an LGBTQ student:
LGBTQ+ Student Rights | GLSEN
Transgender Students at Colleges and Universities | Lambda Legal
Write op-eds in your school newspaper to influence public opinion and advocate for a proposed change with actionable steps.
See How to Write an Op-Ed from the National Organization for Women for a few ideas to get started.
Attend university town halls at any given opportunity to ask questions and broadcast your ideas
Plan events, share ideas, and promote petitions via social media.
Read Maryville University's guide to activism on social media here.
Once you have become politically engaged, encourage others to do the same: utilize your knowledge and platforms to make issue advocacy accessible to everyone.
Leaders are those who are just as determined to mobilize and empower their peers to fight for change as they are determined to make that change themselves: “pay it forward and pay it back.” One must pass down those opportunities which one found so valuable yet did not always have access to in order to continue this critical cycle of growth, empowerment, and action.
“Never underestimate the power of your voice," said Felix Kiene-Gualtieri, Flagship Scholar. "Whatever you say, chances are someone will listen to you. And even if they don’t, you may instill an idea or concept in their mind and plant the seeds for understanding.”
Advocating for yourself and your community can be exhausting and lead to burnout. Make self-care a priority. Here are a few resources about how to take care of yourself as an activist:
"It's easy to get overwhelmed by social media and the onslaught of bad news," said Sydney Rinehart, Point Flagship Scholar. Try to focus on cultivating your own garden and doing something in your community that uses your unique gifts to make an impact. Change starts in ourselves, then our families, then our communities, then the world
"Love yourself! This is my favorite motto and what helped me carry myself on despite the adversity," said Luis Paulino, Point BIPOC Scholar. "The moment students learn how to practice self-love will be the moment they will naturally make a difference at their schools for themselves and the different communities in their surroundings."
MORE LGBTQ STUDENT ADVOCATE STORIES
“As part of the student government, I pushed our administration to recoup our Diversity space on campus.” - Pau Brunet-Fuertes.
"This past year I served as my university Student Body President. I was able to utilize an endowment fund dedicated to my position to give money to our Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity to help fund the newly created Trans Closet and other QT student services." - Niya McAdoo, Point BIPOC Scholar
"I got my university to put students' preferred names on their degrees instead of defaulting to their birth names to ensure that students who haven't been able to go through the name change process can still have the correct name read and printed. I went through my Registrar's office and went through multiple meetings over the course of a few months to enact this change in time for graduation this past May! " - Jo Lew, Point Flagship Scholar.
“After a few conversations, my professors for Health Assessment and Maternity have considered the language they use when talking about genitals, gender, and childbirth. After advocating with the GSA and student accessibility services (a great ally on our campus!), the school is looking at increasing the number of gender-neutral restrooms.” - Shayn Ember, Point Flagship Scholar.
"It is important to remember what we are fighting for whenever we need to make sacrifices. My proudest achievement was creating a student group that fought for equity and justice in my school directly against our administration. This resulted in dozens of meetings that under the guise of conversation, boiled down to scolding. But when the prize is a community where even one person feels safer at school, I was willing to sit through hours of those meetings. In the fight for queer safety and happiness, our victories will be worth more than almost any cost.” - Lukas Borja, Point Flagship Scholar .
“I've had many conversations with teachers about how to support and highlight LGBT+ voices and identities. These conversations are often initiated by faculty once you show yourself to be open, kind, and growth-oriented. I've helped teachers understand, navigate, and use neo-pronouns within the classroom, helped get more access to gender-neutral restrooms, and increased in-school access to sexual health aids all by engaging in respectful conversations with teachers and admin. Sometimes all it takes is confidence, and faith in the good intention of my community" - Cara Weathers, Point Flagship Scholar.
“After months of frustration at seeing my friends dead-named and having my own pronouns disregarded in classrooms, I put forward a proposal to G@MIT on implementing consequences for the repeated misgendering of students by faculty and staff. I was subsequently appointed to the executive board of G@MIT (MIT’s LGBTQ cultural organization), where I have continued to research precedents and prepare our recommendations to MIT’s DEI Office.” - Ari Pero, Point Flagship Scholar.
“I am the former executive board officer at my previous college’s (Austin Community College) student government and after being elected as President I started creating legislation to go into the next year's administration and hopeful to amend our constitution to become more inclusive. I created a policy for everyone to list their pronouns if joining via Zoom for it to be mandatory and in person to have name tags that listed every members' pronouns. Myself and another Point Foundation BIPOC Scholar Kay Trent who is my wonderful friend and colleague have has started on the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for our student government who would be responsible for overseeing all student organizations and ensuring that they are meeting DEI initiatives every semester.” - Justin Parker, Point BIPOC Scholar.
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