The LGBT and Allies community will conduct focus groups for undergraduates Tuesday and Wednesday evening in an effort to improve its resources and services on campus.
“We’re trying to find strategies to truly reflect what students want so we can move forward every academic school year,” said Vincent Vigil, director of the USC Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center.
The focus groups are part of a two-tier approach to obtaining feedback on LGBT resources. The first step was a 17-question LGBT perception survey, available at the resource center’s website for faculty, staff and students.
The events are a joint effort between the LGBT Resource Center, a department of student affairs, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Assembly, a student-run organization that is part of Program Board.
Vigil introduced the idea of focus groups in 2007 as a way to better represent students’ opinions and perceptions of the LGBT community. Vigil emphasized that the organizers are interested in ideas from both students who are part of the LGBT community and students who are not.
“The only way to stay at the cutting edge of what students want is to hear directly from them,” he said.
The focus groups will be moderated by a graduate student and will include a tape recorder and a student note taker. Participants, who will not be asked their name or year, will answer questions about their experience with LGBT events at USC. The questions range from how well-represented LGBT students feel to possible community outreach strategies.
“I’ve been to five or so [focus groups], and it’s a really friendly environment,” said Joshua Morris, a junior majoring in psychology and the incoming assistant executive director for GLBTA. “It’s completely anonymous, so no one’s afraid to speak out. Your name won’t be there, but your message will be heard.”
According to Vigil, student feedback from the focus groups has had tangible effects on LGBT events and organizations.
“Last year, students said they wanted more education about LGBT community organizations around Los Angeles so we hosted the LGBT College Fair and an intercollegiate college mixer with UCLA and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center,” he said.
In 2008, the surveys indicated a desire for more resources for the transgender community. Now, the LGBT Resource Center’s website includes a list of local transgender-friendly physicians, and several campus buildings have gender-neutral bathrooms.
One of several students planning to attend this year’s focus groups is Michael Salvatore, a sophomore majoring in fine arts and anthropology.
“I’m glad they’re holding the focus groups because there are a lot of different interests within our community,” Salvatore said. “GLBTA is a strong social space, but there are other ways for people who are just coming to terms with their sexuality to take advantage of the LGBT resources than just social events.”
Though this week’s focus groups are open only to undergraduates, GLBTA and the LGBT Resource Center will conduct focus groups for graduate students April 6 and focus groups for faculty and staff April 8.
“I’m hoping students come out to the focus groups regardless of their involvement level within our community,” Vigil said. “I want them to voice their opinions and provide new insights and ideas that continue to help us to innovate and create programs and services that are tailored to them.”
The focus groups will take place Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Parkside International Residential College in room 1016 and Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Birnkrant Residential College first-floor lounge.