Measuring Salisbury University’s LGBTQIA Climate

BY KAYDEE JONES

Gull Life Editor

An overwhelming majority (92 percent) of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) adults say society is more accepting of them as opposed to 10 years ago, according to a 2013 survey.

But do the students that identify as LGBTQIA at Salisbury University feel the same sort of acceptance at their school?

That is the question Dr. Diane Illig of SU’s sociology department and Dr. Michèle Schlehofer of SU’s psychology department are trying to answer with their LGBTQIA climate survey.

The online survey, which was sent to every SU student and has seen about 140 responses so far according to Schlehofer, will assess how gender minority students perceive SU in terms of LGBTQ sensitivity. The responses will assist in creating a more accepting campus, said Illig and Schlehofer.

This is the second attempt of measuring campus climate, Illig said. A previous survey sent out about 5 years ago measured general campus climate, but nothing in particular regarding the LGBTQIA community came out of it, so the professors felt a more targeted approach was necessary.

The researchers have heard of instances where students do not feel like the campus is sensitive to the LGBTQ community, they said they are not sure what that means for the campus as a whole and that was also a motivating factor behind designing the survey.

“I know that we have lost a couple of students from SU because they didn’t feel that it was the best climate for them,” Illig said. “We don’t want to lose students because they feel that we’re not addressing their needs.”

The LGBTQ Alliance, a registered student organization on campus, helped Illig and Schlehofer design the survey. They talked to members of the group to get some ideas for questions for the survey, and some even helped build the survey.

The assessment will also assist in designing Safe Spaces, a three hour LGBTQIA awareness and sensitivity training program that is open to faculty, staff and students. The program provides information, statistics and resources related to the LGBTQIA community in addition to critical thought about what they can do to make gender minority students feel safe.

Illig said that their involvement with the Safe Spaces program encouraged them to send out the survey.

“The policies are already in place,” Illig said. “The diversity statements on campus and support we have for the Safe Spaces program is already in place. It’s really about making sure that the campus community understands and are aware of the issues and what’s at stake for these students.”

The Safe Spaces program is not currently mandated at SU, but Illig and Schlehofer are working with the Office of Institutional Equity to promote it, but there is reluctance.

“There are pros and cons,” Illig said. “If you’ve got somebody who’s close minded, taking a workshop only because they’re required to may not move them along the scale [to acceptance].”

Students who identify as LGBTQIA and are age 18 or older are invited to complete the survey, it should take about 30 minutes and is completely anonymous. The survey closes Monday at midnight.

To learn more about the study or to participate, visit the link to the survey below. https://supsychology.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_ba0PGAKoQ7YpJHv

 

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