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Supporting Inclusive Campuses: The Role of the Student Conduct Professional - Part Two

In the first part of this blog series, we discussed the increased awareness of transgender and non-binary students, as well as some of the issues they might face that could lead to interactions with student conduct professionals. If you haven't had a chance to read that piece, click here. This heightened knowledge about gender identity, expression and sexuality is an incredibly positive step in ensuring safe, inclusive campuses where students are able to be themselves (and focus on their studies!), without fear. While many campuses are heading in the right direction when it comes to gender identity education and awareness, instances of targeted bullying, violence and sexual assault remain a heightened risk for trans and non-binary students, simply because of who they are.

Student conduct professionals can play an important role in ensuring an inclusive campus environment for LGBTQIA students by leading the charge to connect support resources, helping to create mindful policies and practices, and by being ready to have difficult conversations with students, faculty and administrators. 

Be an Ally and Recruit Others

Feeling welcome and accepted is an integral part of student success. If a student doesn't feel safe on campus, they likely won't be able to focus on their courses, much less graduate. However, not every institution is in the same place in terms of LGBTQIA support and progress. Ask yourself, “is my campus aware of LGBTQIA students and the individual struggles they may have?” In some cases, you may find it difficult to assemble a group of allies as a support network. Being a public ally is more valuable than you might imagine, and you can start the conversation at your institution if it's not already happening. Identify other faculty and administrators who support inclusion, and understand that sometimes having representatives who aren't part of the LGBTQIA movement can be helpful in raising awareness and acceptance.

Identify and Elevate Existing Resources

You may only work with an individual student a few times, so it's critical to have an understanding of the support resources that exist on campus and in the community. During a recent conversation about supporting inclusive campuses, Regina Curran, Director of Student Conduct at Towson University, and chair of ASCA's Board of Director for Diversity and Inclusion, noted how important it is to have relationships across campus. “I always want to make sure I'm connected with the other resources that exist for our students so that I can help them outside of our meetings. There are often local resources that can help supplement what's available on campus, including counseling that is affirming and support groups for LGBTQUIA students,” said Curran.

 

If you aren't sure where to start, find out if your campus has an LGBTQIA group, or a center for diversity and inclusion. CampusPride.org, the Trevor Project and TransStudent.org all have lists of resources for building inclusive campuses. Additionally, the Pride Foundation has initiatives in a number of regions across the country, and in many cases, these organizations can direct you to local resources.

If there isn't an existing LGBTQIA or diversity club on campus, considering starting one in partnership with other faculty, staff and students. Having a strong network of cis-gender allies can be incredibly valuable for promoting widespread acceptance and inclusion on campus.

Identify Policy Opportunities

In many cases, student conduct professionals are at the forefront of institutional policy. In some places, colleges and universities are already adjusting their admissions and on-campus policies to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary students. There are a number of resources available for helping you start institution-wide policy adjustment, and for schools that receive Title IX funding, there could be increased opportunities for inclusive policy.

“For many institutions, the conduct office needs to be seen as completely impartial, but if you're involved with Title IX work, you can absolutely partner with faculty and staff to create inclusive policies on campus,” said Ray Lader, Assistant Dean of Student Development for Accountability, Education and Compliance at Florida Southern College. “Your role in building and supporting inclusion totally depends on the campus environment, but there's a lot you can do as a student conduct professional— because we are the keepers of policy we can make sure that our policies are inclusive in the language they use, making sure they are non-binary in nature.”

Curran added, “People often look at us as policy experts in a way because we enforce and often write policies. Being a resource for campus policy can be helpful, whether that's in drafting a preferred name policy that would allow students to go by their preferred name, (not the name listed in the campus directory), or by simply including your preferred pronouns in your email signature to start model this behavior for your peers.”

Unfortunately, sometimes faculty and administrators don't recognize when common policies and procedures may feel discriminatory to transgender and non-binary students, such as preventing a student from self-identifying in class. By raising the issue as a student conduct officer, you can start the wheels of change! When you meet with a student, ask them what they prefer to be called, as opposed to referring solely to their enrollment information, and encourage other faculty and staff to do the same. 

Be Ready to Have Difficult Conversations

Understanding your role as a student conduct professional is the first step in supporting inclusive and accepting campuses. No one is perfect, and it may take some time to build out a strong network at your institution. You might also find yourself in a difficult conversation with a student who is struggling with their gender identity. College can be overwhelming for even the most well-adjusted students, and coming out as trans or non-binary can often increase stress, anxiety and depression, depending on the support a student might have access to. By identifying yourself as an ally to the LGBTQIA community, you can help play a valuable role in a trans or non-binary student's life, even as an adult they can confide in. As a trustworthy ally, recognize you always need to learn, but make sure you have a good connection with the resources yourself.

These blog posts are just the beginning of the conversation. You know your institution's environment, and how best to go about ensuring an inclusive campus. In addition to the resources we've shared in these two posts, we encourage you to join ASCA's diversity CoP to discuss these issues and learn from fellow student conduct professionals who are experiencing similar situations.

If you have comments, questions or interest in contributing to the ASCA blog, please contact us at asca@tamu.edu.

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