Within the past week, two major scandals have erupted regarding the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community in higher education: Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has attacked a gay University of Michigan student through blog postings and public harassment, and a Rutgers student committed suicide after being outed on a live-streaming webcam his roommate set up in their dorm room.
Although these situations seem like anomalies, they easily could have happened at any university, even MU. We haven’t seen something as egregious as these two cases, but we don’t stand on particularly stable ground. Nationally, MU lags behind in non-discrimination policies regarding gender identity (as in, we don't have a policy).
According to a report released in September by an LGBT rights group, almost twice as many LGBT student respondents as heterosexual students were subjected to harassment on college campuses. As a campus community, MU students need to make a comprehensive and decisive move toward making everyone feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
The core of the improvement process is non-bureaucratic: every individual student needs to be conscious of what they do and see on campus. And we can’t be complacent. Rather than relying on groups to make campus more inclusive, we should be more inclusive ourselves. Stop saying things are “gay." Stop calling people “fags.” Being aware of discrimination in its most common forms and actively trying to stop it matters more than one would think.
The next layer of action relies on our student leaders. The Multicultural Issues Committee of the Missouri Students Association hosted the Hate Wall — a public event aiming to increase diversity awareness and breakdown stereotypes — this week, but once again, many of the student leaders, and students in general, outside of MCI did not attend.
Because the aforementioned scandals genuinely could have happened anywhere, the university administration should also be advancing policies that actively push for diversity awareness and acknowledge the discrimination members of the LGBTQ community might face as an obstacle to their education.
We, as students, should be continuously pushing for better policies regarding gender and the LGBTQ community. We can’t just promote LGBTQ rights and discuss these issues when something radical happens as a result of harassment, as was the case at Rutgers — and it should never go that far.