28 April 2011

Queer at Purdue: Potential Students

Support staff is not just for supporting students who are here, but also for prospective students. While I was Queer Student Union president I received a good number of emails from prospective students. One I remember involved a transgender student. They were going to the length of contacting every Big Ten university to see which would be the most supportive of them. Unfortunately that was at the beginning of this year before Purdue or West Lafayette included gender identity and gender expression in their nondiscrimination policies. They also were already somewhat dismayed that we did not have an LGBTQ center that they could contact, and thus had had to resort to contacting a student organization. Another student I remember was potentially coming from abroad, and wanting to know how Gay men were treated on campus and by the campus community. Not only were they potentially going to a new country, but they had no idea how their sexual orientation would be treated. Neither of these questions are uncommon to receive. I remember before I came to Purdue my high school councilor and I called the university and ended up getting forwarded to the Queer Student Union (due to lack of administrative knowledge) to talk about potential issues facing Gay people in the dorms. I, as an undergraduate, was even contacted by graduate students and postdocs wondering about the campus climate. I can also remember times when the Queer Resource Center has been visited by parents, wondering what it will be like for their children to attend Purdue (not to mention all of the questions when QSU is present at diversity-related events for prospective students).

I find it really odd that students have to offer this informational service. While I understand a student may want to contact other students to find out how the campus really is, when it comes to questions of policy, isn’t that where there should be support staff? Unfortunately, students can’t consistently offer information like this, and many may be unprepared and uninformed on the details a specific individual wants. Plus, with the turn-over rate of students, by time we know the university well enough to really talk to the climate or enforcement of policies, we are gone. Besides, while students will serve this role, shouldn't the university have an interest in distributing this type of information? Especially if it is linked in some way to recruitment (an area Purdue has recently come under fire for with how it is choosing to spend its advertising money).

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