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Campus strengthens support of LGBTQ diversity initiatives

“Reaping the Harvest of Reaching OUT to SUNY,” a 2012 grant initiative conducted at SUNY Fredonia, has achieved several of its goals of gathering information and developing initiatives to promote awareness related to diversity in LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) issues.

Funding for the 2012 effort was $10,000, which included $5,000 from the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, matched by an anonymous donor through the Fredonia College Foundation.

Leading the year’s efforts are Dr. Jennifer Dyck of the Department of Psychology and Julie Bezek of Fredonia’s Counseling Center, along with Center for Multicultural Affairs graduate assistant Carolyn Laurenzi, student and web developer Erica Nelson, and departments of history and English adjunct instructor Jeff Iovannone. Former faculty member and assistant dean Dr. Ingrid Johnston-Robledo originally headed the grant team.

Projects slated for the grant included conducting research for the Campus Climate Index, a national ranking system of colleges and universities indicating how LGBTQ-friendly a campus is by focusing on categories including Student Life, Academic Life, Policy and Inclusion, Residence Life, Campus Safety, Recruitment and Retention, Support and Institutional Commitment, and Counseling and Health. Ms. Laurenzi and student and Pride Alliance President Tyler Williams interviewed campus administration and staff to collect information for participation in the index. Following submission of the data to Campus Pride, a non-profit organization administering the climate index, SUNY Fredonia received an overall score of 3.5 out of 5 stars, which Dr. Dyck noted is better than average for a university of Fredonia’s size and geographic location. It also provides a starting point for discussion of enhancement of services and outreach to LGBTQ students and the campus community.

Essentially an assessment tool, Dr. Dyck and Ms. Bezek noted that the Campus Climate Index rankings in each category, available at, are valuable not only to the campus community, but to potential students, faculty and staff who are looking for LGBTQ-friendly campuses in their college and career paths.

Also developed as part of the grant was a conference call informational session with members of the State University of New York College Admissions Professionals (SUNYCAP), the statewide organization of offices of admissions, and a “Reaching OUT” website with links for Safe Zone information for faculty and professional staff. The Safe Zone Committee, chaired by Ms. Bezek, provides the campus community with education and training to promote the understanding of issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual individuals. It also provides Safe Space training with the goal of providing a welcoming environment on campus for these individuals by establishing an identifiable network of supportive persons within the campus community. Safe Space training, another goal of the grant, was held in November and will be offered again during the spring semester for students, faculty and staff. For future training dates and to register, visit

A future goal of the “Reaping the Harvest” group will be to encourage and gain financial support from the administration for the inclusion of more gender studies into the curriculum with the hopes of incorporating the courses into a Gender and Sexualities minor under the existing Women’s and Gender Studies.

The grant project extends the goals of a 2011 grant to Fredonia through former faculty member Dr. Beez Schell from what is now called the SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, called “Reaching OUT to SUNY,” which included a statewide summer institute held at SUNY Fredonia in June 2011 to discuss LGBTQ issues and strategies.

posted @ Saturday, February 02, 2013 1:28 PM by Christine Davis Mantai

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