Benefits of Creating an LGBTQ-friendly Educational Experience

“Stony Brook University has an important responsibility to be a model of how diverse groups can come together to achieve a shared goal of higher learning within a context of respect for our differences, dignity, privacy, and our right to participate in this community free from harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or hostility. Creating a safe and inclusive community happens not only through intentions or policy statements, but concrete action as well.”

– Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MD in an email to the university community, October 7, 2010

Stony Brook University has clearly made great strides in providing its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students and faculty with a safe and educationally friendly experience. Included among our initiatives are the provision of services to its LGBTQ students and faculty (including the Wo/Men’s and Gender Resource Center, the Stony Brook University Safe Space Program, and the program for gender-neutral housing), as well as through alliances and networks for its LGBTQ students and faculty. The purpose of this Web site is to meet a very important need to expand these efforts still further.

The ways that Stony Brook has responded to the needs of its LGBTQ students  and faculty has largely been through services provided outside of the classroom. Although that is clearly of the utmost importance, what happens in the classroom is paramount to the well-being of our LGBTQ students. Indeed, as educators, we must seriously question how much learning can take place if unwitting stigmatizing experiences occur within our classrooms. To the extent that our educational environment is experienced as unsafe or discriminatory, it undermines the goal that we, as faculty, have for higher education.

Even in teaching settings that are affirmative of sexual minorities, there can be instances of unintentional discrimination—such as using examples of family life that involve a “husband and wife.” Indeed, our campus Center for Prevention and Outreach has received feedback from students indicating the occurrence of such unintended invalidations in the classroom. In understanding the impact that this is likely to make on sexual and gender minorities, it is important to recognize that their minority status is very much a part of their personal identity. As a result, when a student who is a sexual or gender minority is confronted with such messages, it can be viewed as an attack on who he or she is as a person.

The information provided in this Web site reflects the results of a Stony Brook Presidential Diversity Mini-Grant survey of students about issues/problems they have experienced in the classroom as sexual and gender minorities, and the changes that they would like to see, as well as faculty about their awareness of sexual and gender minority issues and perceived needs for assistance. In this site you will find information about sexual and gender minority individuals, suggestions for dealing with common classroom situations, and links to additional resources which you might find useful. We hope this site meets your needs and we welcome your feedback!