Faculty, staff form new LGBTQ group

The group is the first of its kind for faculty and staff members at MU.

Faculty and staff members gathered Tuesday to establish an organization to support LGBTQ issues on campus.

LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator Ryan Black, Chief Diversity Officer Roger Worthington and Carol Snively, master of social work program director, organized the group's first meeting in Boone Tavern to discuss its main goals.

"Other groups, such as the Hispanic and Latin American Faculty and Staff Association, have a group for faculty and staff, but not for LGBTQ," said Worthington, who has been involved in LGBTQ issues for 13 years. "I feel a strong connection to this community. It is time to establish an LGBTQ (organization) for MU faculty and staff."

Worthington said the group's main priorities would include throwing support behind the push for faculty and staff's LGBTQ rights at MU.

"There are issues that need to be addressed, and this is the group that will address the problems," Worthington said. "The Chancellor's Diversity Initiative will lend its support to LGBTQ association once it firms up its membership and bylaws."

The attendees actively exchanged ideas about activities that should be reflected in the bylaws. They discussed garnering support for domestic partnership benefits and partner accommodations, adding gender identity and expression into MU's non-discrimination policy and improving benefit structures for people who are transsexual. They also wanted to promote the Safe Space Program on campus and executing exit interviews to determine why LGBTQ faculty and staff members leave MU.

"An established LGBTQ faculty/staff group will eventually be able to assist in the recruitment and retention of high qualified LGBTQ individuals," Black said. "I envision all the LGBTQ and ally organizations working together and sharing resources with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive campus."

Black outlined the reasons behind creating an LGBTQ group specifically for faculty and staff members.

"While LGBTQ students can find support and a social network through the resource center and student organizations, such as Triangle Coalition, many LGBTQ faculty/staff find it more difficult to connect with peers in the queer community at Mizzou," Black said. "Bringing people together is the initial goal."

Women's Center adviser Suzy Day said the organization could contribute to a feeling of community for LGBTQ faculty and staff members.

"We can bring people of all over the campus to come together and to get more individuals and even employers involved," Day said. "It will be easy to get hold of everyone by forming a Facebook group and promote the idea of 'one big family.' I would like to create more visibility for LGBTQ in the media."

The group will meet again to decide on a name either online or face-to-face, but a date has not been determined yet.

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