Pride Month has passed, but for student body president Jackie Gonzalez and diversity outreach director J Hallen, the work for LGBT rights lasts year-round.
The president released a statement June 19 about goals “aimed at creating a more positive campus climate for our LGBTQ+ community members.” They include changing the package-delivery processing system, encouraging professors to state on syllabi that they are comfortable using students’ preferred names and pronouns, adding housing options and creating media to showcase information about marginalized groups.
“These are little steps that can improve the quality of these people’s lives,” Gonzalez says.
She hopes changing the package processing policy will be simple. Under the current system, students must present their ID cards to collect packages; however, transgender students often go by names that don’t correspond to the ones on their identification. Gonzalez and Hallen propose allowing students to use ID numbers instead. A gender-neutral option helps transgender students feel more accepted, says Hallen, a native of Cary, North Carolina, who is studying business administration.
Both say they want students to feel accepted in the classroom as well. Professors already check name pronunciation with students, Gonzalez says; it’s a small step for them to state they will use students’ preferred names and pronouns.
“It’s an important part of respecting the identity of trans people,” Hallen says. The plan is to take both top-down and grass-roots approaches – she and Gonzalez will talk with department leaders about including text about preferred names and pronouns in syllabi and encourage students to talk to individual professors.
Hallen said changes to both the package-delivery system and the syllabi would help transgender students feel safer and combat gender dysphoria – the conflict between a person’s assigned and true genders.
“When you’re a transgender person and you’re getting your package or going into the classroom, you’re asking, ‘Will this person accept me?’” Hallen says. “It can affect talking to professors, staff, everyone.”
Hallen and Gonzalez hope to promote acceptance this year through videos on social media and the Student Body website that give marginalized groups such as asexual individuals and queer people of color a chance to speak. The goal is to spread messages of acceptance and inclusivity to both current and prospective students. Hallen also wants to include groups outside the LGBT community, including Native Americans.
“It’s important to hit that broader spectrum,” she says.
The student body members would also like to start a discussion about LGBT students and housing.
“The on-campus living problem is I think the biggest issue,” Gonzalez says. “We think that we can take steps going forward to make things better and more accommodating for the LGBT community.”
She and Hallen, both rising seniors, don’t expect to accomplish all four goals this year; however, they want to lay the groundwork for future groups of student leaders. They praised NC State faculty, staff and administrators for their support of LGBT students and the work they do to keep campus safe.
“So many professors on campus are so giving and appreciative of students, and that’s something we see on all levels, from housekeeping to the chancellor,” Gonzalez says.