QRC lobbies for new staff position for gender identity and sexuality

April 27, 2007

Following a 2003 proposal to increase resources for queer students at Brandeis, the Queer Resource Center (QRC) is advocating a new position to educate and address the community in issues of gender and identity and sexuality.

The 2003 proposal, which aimed to meet what is quickly becoming a nationwide standard in the area of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQ) student services, inspired the creation of the QRC under Triskelion, Brandeiss LGBT/queer organization. However, the original proposal suggested that a resource center be part of the universitys institutional structure.

The QRC, according to their website, is the educational branch of Triskelionestablished to teach the Brandeis community about queer issues, provide support for queer students, and answer any queer-related questions[additionally], the QRC offers confidential counseling [by] staff members [who] have all undergone thorough training and are able peer educators.

QRC co-coordinator Marcus Simon 07 explained that while the creation of the QRC has been beneficial for the queer community, the success of the group is entirely dependent upon students. He explained that for students with many other obligations, theres a strainit is hard to do this. Simon explained that the original proposal from 2003 did not rely on students to do the universitys agenda.

Indeed, the original proposal, presented to Dean Jean Eddy and President Reinharz, recognized that the educational and social services provided by Trisk, have proven to be overwhelming for undergraduate studentsexpecting a student group to deliver professional services causes many of those students to feel burdened academically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically.

Simon reiterated this point when he shared the story of one QRC member forced to leave Brandeis because of poor academic performance caused by heavy involvement in the QRC. Additionally, he shared a sobering story of a member who committed suicide.

He said, it takes a huge personal toll, having to do advocacy requires that you have to put yourself out there. Its hard to be tokenized. It does take a huge personal toll when you talk about issues that affect you. Furthermore, Simon said the schools services for queer students affect retention and recruitment. At the Spring Open House, Simon said he spoke to many perspective students concerned with queer life at Brandeis.

Simon also said that the problem of student overextension is the same for every club that is identity based. Unlike identity based groups under the umbrella of the Intercultural Center, the queer identity based groups, according to Simon, dont have anything at the institutional level. We dont have anyone here for gender and sexuality issues.

In order to combat the problem of over-dependence on students and to help the university fully implement its non-discrimination policy, Triskelion, the QRC, and TransBrandeis, a group under Triskelion which advocates for the needs of trandgendered students, have put forth a new proposal, which outlines the responsibilities of a new staff member to support the queer community and educate the campus.

The proposal is supported by the Student Union, Prof. Thomas King (ENG), Prof. Bernadette Brooten (NEJS), Prof. ChaeRon Freeze (NEJS), and Prof. Anita Hill (Heller School) among others. Simon said, this is the first time weve put forth an explicit job description. Its kind of based on past work but kind of brand new.

The GLBT/Queer staff person, according to Simon, will be responsible for general networking with the administration to make sure that gender identity and sexual orientation are included in diversity programming. Specifically, this individual will support the agendas of QRC and TransBrandeis while also holding his or her own office hours.

The staff member will also work with Residence Life to provide education to Community Advisors as well as dorm raps in first-year residence halls. Education for Orientation Leaders and faculty is also included in the job description. This staff member will be responsible for publishing a newsletter and creating a website devoted to gender and sexuality issues.

The education of Public Safety and the Psychological Counseling Center falls under the auspices of the new position according to the proposal. Simon emphasized these points. Its not safe to report male on male rape, he said.

Furthermore, the psychologists at the Counseling Center are often unable to discuss issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. As a result, if someone comes into the QRC needing more help than peer counselors can offer, theres no one [on campus] for us to refer them to, Simon said. Simon related his own experience of needing to explain his identity to psychologists. I needed to educate them, he said.
In order to compile a job description, Simon, Alice Ittelson 08, Samantha Andler 07, Lily Schwartz 08, and Lisa Borten 07 consulted websites with postings for these jobs. Additionally, they modeled their expectations after positions at other universities. Simon said, there is a precedent at other schools in the area.

Simon said that even though the staff member will deal with issues of gender and sexuality, the position is not specific to QRC. Its like the position [Dean of Student Life in Support of Diversity] Jamele [Adams] has.

Simon commented that the creation of the new position will help the entire Brandeis community. Just as Dean Adams helps more than just minority students, the new staff member would help more than queer students.

Moreover, Simon said, being straight doesnt mean you dont have a sexuality. When asked about the reaction students outside the queer community might have to the proposal, he said, it seems like people on the outside of oppression dont get it[but Brandeis] is still an accepting place.

Simon sees the creation of a staff position for gender and sexuality as a way to ensure the staying power of his work and that of other students. I dont want trans[gender] issues to fall off the map after I leave. You want a school where people like you can go and feel safe.

Dean of Student Life in Support of Diversity Jamele Adams presented the new proposal to Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy Thursday, April 26. As of press time, no conclusions regarding the proposal have been reached.

Simon commented in a follow up email interview, there really isn't any way to predict what the administration's reactions will be, and there is no telling how long this could take. My guess is it will be within the next couple of years, since I believe the budget has already been set for the coming year and may be difficult to amend at this point.

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