As we continue to define what it means to be a truly inclusive campus, we recognize that gender identity and sexual orientation are key components of diversity. At my Town Hall meeting three months ago and in subsequent conversations during my 100-day listening exercise, 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. By engaging in thoughtful dialogue and taking concrete actions, our University is making progress on this front—but there is still more to do.
In 2014 the LGBTQ Task Force completed an assessment of the current level of services for our LGBTQ students at the University and presented its recommendations to President Shalala. An executive summary of the Task Force report is available here. Since the summer of 2014, an LGBTQ Implementation Committee has taken action to implement most of the recommendations in order to make our campus more inclusive for all students and to help guide our supportive programs going forward.
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. In May 2015 the University honored 22 graduating LGBTQ students and allies by hosting the inaugural Lavender Celebration, where graduating students were recognized for their leadership, achievements, and contributions to our community.
University Communications is leading our efforts to incorporate LGBTQ-inclusive language in University communication and marketing materials for students—past, current, and future—as well as faculty, staff, and community members.
Our alumni also provide crucial support to current students and LGBTQ initiatives. University Advancement and the UM Alumni Association have created an affiliate group for alumni (LGBTQ ’Canes) to connect with each other and their alma mater.
As I announced at my Town Hall meeting, 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.
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. This new area will report through the Division of Student Affairs. Additionally, I have asked that LGBTQ support be included by the University of Miami Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion to ensure an ongoing and dynamic dialogue with measurable results.
Working together, our commitment to these policies and programs will make the University of Miami a stronger, more welcoming community where all of us feel WE BELONG.