Campus Pride, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the college experience for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students, released its 2010 climate index for gay-friendly campuses. Nineteen schools achieved the top rating, five stars, among them Ithaca College! The rankings are based on self-reported information about the schools’ polices and programs.
I do my part with a “Safe Space” sign on my office door. Have you ever taken the IAT (Implicit Attitude Test)? This test was created by researchers at Harvard who wanted to measure people’s unconscious and unspoken attitudes. Images and words are combined and the speed at which “good” words are matched with certain themed photos provides an indication of a subject’s preference for one of two categories. Some of the paired categories are meaningless – like cats versus dogs, but others have to do with race, political preference, sexual orientation, and age. Research on the IAT is ongoing, and some feel the test is not as accurate as the authors claim. Regardless, it’s interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve always been very proud that I had a preference for gay versus straight. (Sometimes in teaching stereotypes, I find students incredulous when I tell them stereotypes can consist of positive characteristics. This is a case for me – I attribute a number of good qualities to my gay friends and associates. Still, stereotypes, positive or negative, can be damaging, so I try to be careful.)
Despite the fact that I see myself as someone who is gay-friendly, I realize that sometimes I can be rather heteronormative. A few semesters ago, I read a tip sheet that reminded faculty not to ask students about their “mom and dad” – maybe they have two moms or two dads – instead say “parents” or “family members.” Be flexible about calling roll – some transgender students may not want their legal name read aloud to the class. Let students know that GLBT topics are appropriate for assignments. Include relevant examples of GLBT issues in the curriculum. I know there are many other ideas as well, and as I come across them, I try to incorporate them in my own teaching practice. Any you want to share?