Students at the last ally discussion of the year concluded USC is fairly accepting of LGBT students, but suggested the university focus on educating students about sexual identity and gender to further improve its relationship with the LGBT community.
Specifically, the panel, which consisted of Sara Parker, a graduate student in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development; Julianne Gale, a graduate student in the School of Theatre; Nick Powers, a sophomore studying in East Asian area studies; and Kristopher Patrick, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences discussed ways professors and the Greek community can help.
Although some houses on The Row have an ally chair that works with the LGBT community, Greek members hope all houses will eventually have one.
The ally chair is not an official position, and the duties carried out by the member are added to existing chair positions. The ally chair attends QuASA meetings, and serves as a person in the house questioning or LGBT members can talk to in complete secrecy. Currently, Alpha Delta Pi sorority and Delta Gamma sorority have the position.
“Although I wouldn’t say it’s necessary, I think it’s a good idea,” said Mattie Hanson, social chair of Phi Delta Theta who is openly gay. “It doesn’t just help gay Greeks, but all gay people on campus and their perceptions about the Greek community … A lot of gay guys and girls don’t know they can rush because they assume that being gay means they can’t go Greek.”
Jackie Matthews, a junior majoring in public relations and gender studies and executive vice president of Panhellenic, came up with the idea of an ally chair for sororities. Although she wishes every chapter would have someone in this position, she said that it is not possible without the approval of nationals.
“I think requiring it would ruin the spirit of the initiative,” Matthews said. “We can’t require it anyway because every chapter’s nationals is in charge of what positions each house has. But we heavily encourage it and work with the chapters as much as we can.”
In the meantime, Matthews is organizing different programs that will foster tolerance and acceptance during Greek Week to raise awareness because there are no official ally chairs.
Some students at the panel expressed concern with how faculty and staff have treated queer issues within the classroom. Students said some professors have failed to correct comments that promoted gay stereotypes, while others have assumed an attitude of heteronormativity, that it is culturally normal to be straight, in class discussions about diversity or socio-economics.
“There have been instances where classes talk about socio-economic topics and focus on race or class, but they never mention queer issues,” Gale said.
The panel also agreed that USC needs to promote education about sexual identity and gender with more panel discussions, workshops, guest speakers and general interaction with the LGBT community.
“I see a lot of ignorance [among students]. USC should be teaching students about different aspects of our community and asking what stereotypes can we shatter,” Powers said.
Suggestions were made on how USC could go about educating its students, including creating LGBT liaisons with various USC organizations, changing the LGBT center to the LGBTQ center to include queer students, building gender neutral bathrooms and housing and even providing information in the USC Housing packet for freshmen that addresses having a gay roommate.
“There’s a confusion about how students ask about someone’s sexual identity, a problem that could be addressed with enough information and education,” Parker said.
In addition to education, students suggested the university create places on campus, either in organizations or classrooms, where LGBT students can feel safe to discuss topics they feel are relevant. One student suggested the Safe Zone program many other universities use, which trains faculty and staff to be allies. If the professor has the Safe Zone sticker on his or her office door, students can feel free to discuss LGBT issues.
“If this program were implemented at USC, the teacher would be obliged to be against homophobia,” Powers said.
Although most LGBT students said they feel integrated in campus life, the panel made it clear that there is still a long way to go before people are fully aware and respectful of the LGBT community.