LGBTQ Checkbox Examined
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2012 20:04
In response to public debate over a proposal by the Georgetown University Student Association executive team to include an LGBTQ-friendly checkbox on freshman housing forms, GUSA is forming a working group to evaluate that proposal and other potential means of increasing on-campus safety for LGBTQ students.
The LGBTQ safety and wellness working group, which will be led by GUSA Transitional Secretary Sam Ungar (COL ’12) and Secretary of Diversity Affairs James Saucedo (MSB ’13), plans to meet twice before the end of the academic year.
“We’re looking forward to having productive conversations about ensuring health, safety and wellness for LGBTQ students at Georgetown,” GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) said.
GUSA has reached out to specific students about joining the working group, but membership is open to all undergraduates. Meetings, however, will be closed to the public.
GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Kohnert-Yount included the LGBTQ-friendly checkbox in their campaign platform, but the proposal has drawn significant criticism since the pair’s election. In a viewpoint published in The Hoya (“Acceptance Shouldn’t Be Optional, But Expected,” A3 March 27, 2012), Nick Shaker (COL ’12) criticized the measure for implying that tolerance is optional.
“I think [Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount are] doing something that is very noble, and I’m thrilled to see institutional efforts in place to increase support and eliminate alienation of the LGBTQ community,” Shaker said. “I just think this is an oversimplified way of going about it.”
According to GUSA Senate Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ’12), an LGBTQ-friendly checkbox on the freshman housing form would address a pressing safety issue and allow other resources to work toward resolving the larger problem of intolerance of the LGBTQ community.
“No student should ever feel that they are so vulnerable in their own living situation during their freshman year that they have to leave Georgetown,” he said. “Unfortunately, you’re not going to reach everyone through events on campus. … So if there are people on this campus who don’t want to live with a gay person, you should not force a gay person to live with them.”
While Talbot will not be part of the working group, he said it was important that discussions about LGBTQ tolerance continue.
According to Gustafson, efforts to implement the proposal are on hold so that GUSA can evaluate feedback generated by the working group.
“I don’t want to move forward on anything and thereby disempower this group that has convened to seriously talk about this issue, so making sure those conversations are lengthy, fruitful and effective is our goal right now,” Gustafson said.