President Julio Frenk will announce the creation of a space in the center of campus to support LGBT students with a staff member to assist them.
The announcement is part of a letter from President Frenk to the University of Miami community to address the needs and concerns of LGBT students. The Miami Hurricane received a copy of the letter ahead of its release. It follows another letter that Frenk released last week to address black students’ concerns. His announcement of a centrally located space for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the enrollment of an increased number of black students and recruitment of more black professors, received a controversial response across the university.
The initiatives listed in the letter were recommended by the Task Force to Address Black Students’ Concerns.
Similarly, an LGBTQ Task Force was created in 2013 and LGBTQ Implementation Committee was created in 2014. The Task Force created a report for administrators and those findings were reinforced by meetings that the president had with students and faculty during his 100 Days of Listening program.
“…It has become abundantly clear that for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students, inclusivity is an extremely important priority in building a sense of belonging for all,” he wrote in the letter. “By engaging in thoughtful dialogue and taking concrete actions, our University is making progress on this front —but there is still more to do.”
Frenk was asked several questions regarding LGBT-friendly housing, restrooms and resources at his Town Hall Meeting with members of the UM community in September when he announced plans for gender-neutral housing. Gender-neutral housing also has become a Student Government priority this semester, helping to accelerate its implementation.
The pilot program will be offered in certain suites and apartments in Eaton Residential College and the University Village, according to a statement from Executive Director of Media Relations Elizabeth Amore.
Along with more concrete plans for housing, Frenk confirmed in the letter plans for 14 designated gender-neutral bathrooms to be in place by spring 2016.
“A limited gender-neutral, on-campus housing option will be available for upper-class students in fall 2016. Furthermore, 14 gender-neutral and inclusive restrooms will be designated on the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School campuses by the spring semester,” he said.
The creation of a designated space in the center of campus to provide resources to students as well as a full-time staff member to assist LGBT students were requests made by several student leaders from Spectrum-UPride, the LGBT student organization on campus.
“I am pleased to announce that starting in fall 2016 there will be a dedicated staff member and space in the center of campus to support students of all gender identities/expressions and sexual orientations,” Frenk said in his letter.
When student-leaders met with Frenk at the beginning of the fall semester to discuss the possibility of such a center, he was open to the idea, UPride Treasurer Morgan Owens said.
According to the students, Spectrum-UPride was serving as the one resource center for all the unique needs of LGBT students. This, Owens said, was a task they were happy to take on, but not one the student organization was properly equipped to handle.
“There is a general need for some kind of institutional support center,” Owens said in September after Frenk’s Town Hall.
As part of his letter regarding black representation on campus, Frenk also announced the creation of the UM Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. LGBT support will also be included in the committee’s dialogue, according to the letter.
The LGBTQ Implementation Committee has worked with administrators to implement recommendations by students, faculty and alumni to make UM more LGBT-friendly. These efforts start before a student enrolls at UM with university communications and continue into the alumni community in the form of support networks.
University Communications, the media relations and marketing office for the university, has begun incorporating more inclusive language in marketing, promotional and communication materials.
“New student orientation now includes two new sessions on campus and community resources for LGBTQ persons. The LGBTQ Mentor Program and the IBIS Ally Network Training provide opportunities for faculty and staff to support students through formal and informal interactions,” Frenk wrote in the letter.
The university held its first Lavender Celebration in May to honor the accomplishments of 22 LGBT students and allies.
University Advancement and the UM Alumni Association created a group for LGBT alumni to connect called LGBTQ ‘Canes.