What: Creating Equity for the LGBTQ Community in Higher Education: Teaching and Learning for the 21st Century
When: Friday, Oct. 25, 8:30 a.m.
Where: Auraria Campus, Denver
Bri Duke remembers how packed the crowd was at last year's annual Gay Straight Alliance drag show.
Duke, a senior Asian studies major at the University of Colorado, is president of the alliance which is working to create a safe space for LGBTQA -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied -- students on campus. At last year's drag show, one group of performers had to squeeze between hundreds of audience members just to get to the stage.
"Our turnout has been massive," Duke said.
The drag show's massive audience is evidence to Duke that some of the university's LGBTQ policies for inclusion and equality are working, and that every year the campus culture becomes more and more friendly LGBTQ students.
CU students, faculty and staff will talk about how to the LGBTQ civil rights movement is shaping the university at the second annual system-wide LGBTQ symposium on the Denver campus this Friday.
The symposium, "Creating Equity for the LGBTQ Community in Higher Education: Teaching and Learning for the 21st Century," will give the statewide CU community a chance to talk about LGBTQ issues, progress and initiatives on CU's various campuses.
The Boulder campus' GLBTQ resource center opened in 1995 after a study by the chancellor's LGBTQ task force found that the university was hostile and intimidating for LGBTQ students and faculty.
Resource center director Scarlet Bowen said the university has come a long way since the center opened almost 20 years ago, and in a lot of ways, has been at the "forefront" of colleges and universities in the United States when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
"The symposium is really about how can we make sure that we stay there because things are rapidly changing in the legal and social landscape," Bowen said.
Bowen commended the university on some of its recent efforts, such as the Board of Regents' unanimous decision in September to expand the school's nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity.
But, Bowen said, the symposium also gives the CU community a chance to talk about what still needs work moving forward. Though the university created an LGBTQ studies certificate program in 1996, Bowen said more work can be done to include LGBTQ-related material into other classes, like history and political science. She said she'd also like to see an opportunity for advanced research on LGBTQ and gender studies issues at the doctoral level.
Glenda Russell, a Boulder and CU psychologist, is working on a book about LGBTQ history. Russell, the symposium's keynote speaker, will talk about how to make the university's campuses inclusive for an increasingly diverse group of LGBTQ students.
"We will have students who arrive each year who identify as LGBTQ and some who have been out for several years," Russell said. "Others are moving slowly toward coming out. Some have support from their families and friends and faith communities. Some have had their sexual orientation and gender identity met with discomfort. How do we make an inclusive environment for young people from all of those backgrounds?"
With that in mind, the university's students will be facing very different issues five years from now than they are today, she said, and campus administrators need to keep that in mind as they look ahead.
Russell said while CU's official policies are moving in the right direction, it's much harder for the campus to address subtle discrimination or prejudice. Russell wondered: Do CU's LGBTQ students and faculty feel respected on campus? Is their history reflected in coursework? Those are questions she hopes faculty and staff are considering every day, she said.
CU Board of Regents Chairman Michael Carrigan, a Denver Democrat, will highlight the recent addition of gender identity to the campus nondiscrimination policy at the symposium.
"I look forward to expressing the Board's appreciation for the service and dedication of our LGBTQ faculty, staff and students," Carrigan said. "We are a leading example of tolerance and acceptance in the state of Colorado, and I'm proud of that."
In Colorado Springs, campus administrators did receive some pushback when they announced the symposium this year, though the overwhelming response was positive.
The negative response is proof that some parts of the CU system are still making strides toward acceptance and tolerance on their campuses, and the symposium provides a space to talk about those campus-specific differences, said CU-Colorado Springs LGBTQ resource center director Vanessa Delgado.
"It's incredibly necessary for Colorado Springs to be included because we bring a different type of student perspective," Delgado said. "We have a very different student background than Boulder and Denver."