Although school was not in session, the Georgetown University Student Association had plenty to keep it busy this summer.

Members of GUSA’s Safe Transitions Working Group have spent the last three months writing and implementing the LGBTQ Safety and Security Report and a list of recommendations in response to the public debate over a proposal to include an LGBTQ-friendly checkbox on freshman housing surveys.

The checkbox drew criticism when it was proposed last spring, including a viewpoint by Nick Shaker (COL ’12) for The Hoya (“Acceptance Shouldn’t Be Optional, But Expected,” A3, March 27, 2012) that condemned the measure for implying that tolerance is optional.

“The opposition said that if you had a checkbox, it would pressure incoming freshmen to identify and isolate the LGBTQ community within freshman dorms,” GU Pride President Meghan Ferguson (COL ’15) said. “[GU Pride] supported having a checkbox as more of a means of opening up a dialogueabout how we can improve the living situation of LGBTQ freshmen who don’t feel safe in their rooms.”

GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) maintained her support for the checkbox but said that the working group aimed to seek out longer-term solutions to intolerance on campus.

“We knew in the first place that [the checkbox] would not solve anything and that it would be short term and catch a few things to help make a few people more comfortable,” she said.

The working group comprised outgoing seniors, underclassmen, LGBTQ individuals and GUSAleaders and focused on how to improve the Georgetown experience for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said the culture of Georgetown poses challenges to LGBTQ students.

“The Georgetown student culture is very conforming in general,” she said. “It is difficult for some students to be different.”

According to GUSA’s report, 57.8 percent of LGBTQ students surveyed strongly agreed that LGBTQstudents face discrimination or alienation at Georgetown, while 66.3 percent reported sometimes, regularly or often feeling uncomfortable because of their identity.

Because of these statistics, the report recommended including a non-discrimination statement that students must sign in order to complete first-year housing.

Gustafson and GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) began conversations with the Office of Housing and Residence Life over the summer and expect the statement to be implemented by next fall.

Additionally, GUSA plans to implement a “safe spaces” pilot training program this year. The program will train student volunteers to mediate conflict and provide resources to victims of discrimination.

“With any student, it is very challenging to figure out which resources to use … so this would just be one other person who would know what and where these resources are,” Gustafson said.

Information regarding the safe spaces program and how to get involved was included in New Student Orientation packets over the summer to launch the pilot program.

In addition to proposing student solutions, the working group’s report recommended that Georgetown update its blue light emergency phones.

According to Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount, Georgetown’s blue light locations should be better publicized and updated to ensure student safety.

“There is not enough emphasis on blue lights at Georgetown,” Gustafson said.

As per the report’s recommendation, student and administrative leaders involved in emergency response on campus will participate in a blue light walking tour this fall with the Department of Public Safety to point out locations that lack proper security.

The report also discussed the GU Bias Reporting System, an online site where university students and faculty can document issues of prejudice on campus. As of this April, the BRS had not been updated since August 2010.

“Victims and witnesses who file reports need to see results, need to see that they are not alone and be assured that they are … doing the right thing … being responded to efficiently and successfully and … setting great examples for their peers,” the report read.

Bias Reporting Team Chair Dennis Williams said the BRS will be updated in the near future, though he could not say exactly when.

The working group also recommended that the BRS be made more available to students, possibly via Georgetown’s new mobile application.

“We were more focusing on the education side of it, so getting people to know that it’s there,” Gustafson said.

The last recommendation focused on creating a mixed-gender housing option for self- identifiedLGBTQ students.

According to Subbaraman, the LGBTQ Center works with the Office of Housing and Residence Life to accommodate students with different gender identities but does not offer gender-neutral housing.

Kohnert-Yount said she knew of transgender students who initially enrolled at Georgetown but did not stay long enough to graduate.

“That students have come to Georgetown and not found it a welcoming enough place to stay to graduate is unacceptable,” Kohnert-Yount said.

According to Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount, GUSA will focus on implementing the recommendations and maintaining the conversation with the Office of Housing and Residence Life.

“We want every student to come in and feel that Georgetown is a good place for them. Otherwise, we aren’t fulfilling our mission,” Kohnert-Yount said.

Hoya Staff Writer Sarah Patrick contributed to this report.

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