Social Justice Activism

I am hoping this page can act as a resource for people looking to make changes at their home institutions, or how changes were made or attempted at Purdue University and the University of Minnesota

Table of Contents
Overarching Activism
University of Minnesota
  • Single Use Bathrooms
  • Racialized Crime Alerts

Overarching Activism
Human rights battles come in waves, and with each successive wave society gets closer to the ideal of equality. Even though a lot of the talk seems to be on marriage, there are a lot of places that need improvement when it comes to LGBTQ rights issues. While at Purdue I have tried to at least move us somewhat closer to reality, even if it is in a small section of the society.

I held the presidency of the Queer Student Union at Purdue during the 2010-2011 academic year. The year before that (2009-2010) I was the vice president, and during my second semester as a student I was the secretary. I have also proxied for one of the Purdue Student Government senators from the Council of Organizations for Respect and Equality. From Fall 2008 to Spring 2011 I served on the LGBTQ Advisory Board to the Office of the Provost (and later the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion). I also represented QSU on President's Round Table, an organization consisting of forty clubs chosen due to their roles at the university. I have served on the committee seeking the LGBTQ Studies minor and the search committee for Purdue's first Director of LGBTQ Affairs

Purdue Nondiscrimination Policy
I wonder if people in administrative positions realize the importance of a nondiscrimination policy. I personally know of people who have chosen to go to other schools when Purdue lacked Gender Identity and Gender Expression in its nondiscrimination policy. Just the simple addition of a few words can go a long way in making somebody feel comfortable. Over my time at Purdue I helped in the effort to get Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Genetic Information added to Purdue's Nondiscrimination Policy (which occurred in December of 2010). In order to facilitate other schools in making the change, you can read more here.
I was also fortunate enough to speak at the West Lafayette city council meeting in which Gender Identity and Gender Expression was added to its Human Relations Ordinance.
My blog posts on the subject: A Semester of Progress (Dec 2010), Purdue Board of Trustees Expands Nondiscrimination Policy (Dec 2010), Quick Post on Gender Identity and Expression (October 2010), A Bit on the Past Semester (May 2010), After Gender Identity and Expression (April 2010), Exponent Cover PGSG Resolution (March 2010), PGSG Approves Nondiscrimination Resolution (March 2010), Pre-PGSG Statement on the Nondiscrimination Resolution (February 2010), Nondiscrimination Policy Tracking (February 2010), Nondiscrimination Policy (February 2010)

Purdue LGBTQ Affairs Staff
Purdue is one of the only Big Ten universities to not have LGBTQ Affairs staff. Students voluntarily run a resource center, but this is not funded by the university and suffers from a severe lack of continuity and time. In the Spring of 2011 Purdue announced it would begin searching for a full-time staff member to fill this role. As Queer Student Union president, I brought in speakers to talk with administrators and students about the needs for this position, specifically Ronni Sanlo and Doug Bauder. I also met with many members of the administration, including bringing up the issue to the Vice President of Student Affairs when she was still a candidate for the position. This work has been a long time coming, and has mainly consisted of meetings. In the Fall of 2011 I was asked to be on the search committee for the hiring of the first Director of LGBTQ Affairs.

Purdue Single Use Bathrooms
There are a variety of reasons why gender neutral bathrooms are important. Families with small children may prefer to use them, they may be more efficient in certain situation than segregated bathrooms, individuals may not have to worry about which gender bathroom to choose, etc. For these reasons, I looked into Purdue's single use bathrooms (I would have liked gender neutral, multi-stall bathrooms but knew that wasn't possible at that point in time). An old list had been made in 2008, but it was clearly out of date (for the better, as many bathrooms had since switched from segregated to gender neutral). After checking with some individuals I found out the correct administrator to contact, and after several months and some reminder emails, an official new list has been made.

Purdue LGBTQ Studies Program
Many major universities have some variant of an LGBTQ Studies Program, though Purdue lacks such. My only real contribution to this project was getting a survey and the bingo sheet of classes to Purdue Student Government. For the sake of people interested in how to go about this sort of activism, much of this has to be lead by faculty willing to teach the classes and students looking to study the material. At Purdue a board exists consisting of faculty, students (both graduate and undergraduate), staff, and administration that is looking into making this a reality. Much of the work involves talking with deans and department heads, and compiling the lists of classes on campus. A TA line was sought through Women's Studies to get an introduction class started, and based on interest from that hopefully to make the minor official.

Purdue Surveys
All too often surveys are stuck in the gender binary of male and female. When Purdue Housing added other and transgender as options, a thank you note was sent applauding the decision. At Purdue's President's Round Table, I asked President Cordova if all surveys could be changed, including the course evaluations that all students receive. The gender question has since been removed from course evaluations.

Purdue Asexuality Awareness
Being a Gay male, I have benefited a lot from the people who came before me that helped carve out an identity I could feel secure with. Unfortunately, there are other groups where this work needs to be aided. I thus have tried to increase the awareness of Asexuality at Purdue. During my first year as a student I gave a talk during the Queer Student Union's month long series of events known as Gaypril. My talk was entitled, "Asexuality: The Missing Orientation." The next year, I gave a talk for the Intersections Student Diversity Conference with the same title. As president of the Queer Student Union, I hosted an Asexuality Coffee Night, and yet again gave my Asexuality talk. Finally, after three years and four events, I had openly Asexual people come and participate in the discussion. During my final year at Purdue I again hosted my talk, and also worked with the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals bring the documentary (A)sexual to campus.

Purdue Bias Reporting
The means of reporting incidents of discrimination and harassment are unclear and unknown to many students. Throughout my time at Purdue I have tried to increase the awareness on how to report while also pushing for changes in the system. In order to enhance awareness I began speaking of the procedure at Queer Student Union recruitment events, including information in our literature, and having the Queer Student Union officers trained on bias reporting. A webform is now available for students to report. This can be accessed here. I also advocated for the webform's URL to be added to Purdue's course syllabi. Working with Purdue Student Government, a resolution was passed and the language was added in the Spring of 2012.

University of Minnesota Single Use Restrooms
One of my pet peeves has been gendered single use restrooms. The University of Minnesota has a number of restrooms that while single use are segregated. I have discussed this issue in this post, with this followup and this followup. Minnesota building code requires everywhere in a building to be within 1 floor and 500 feet of a restroom designated for each sex. This unfortunately restricts the number of single use restrooms that can be converted to a gender neutral restroom. There are still a number of restrooms that could be changed on campus though, and I am pushing for those changes to be made.

Racialized Crime Alerts
At a number of institutions the race of the suspect is specifically pointed out in crime alerts. These occur even when the descriptions are vague and a not an impending threat to student safety. Research has shown that racial descriptors are ambigious and may create problems for police work. Research also shows an increase in implicit bias after reading a crime alert suggesting a suspect was a person of color. In 2013 a variety of organizations requested racial descriptors be removed from crime alerts. In 2014 the Whose Diversity list of demands also requested racial descriptors be removed. The university decided to keep these descriptors without looking at the academic literature and by only looking at what peer instutions use (as shown by an information request). I, along with other members of the Council of Graduate Students and the Graduate and Professional Student Association, drafted a resolution requesting racial descriptors be removed from crime alerts. This resolution overwhelmingly passed both of these bodies. We are waiting to hear what course of action the university will take.
The resolution