Improving Queer Life at Williams: A List of Demands
December 2, 2009
Full Time Queer Life Coordinator Position (as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Director)
Implementation by Spring semester 2010 for academic year 2010-2011
The Queer Life Coordinator (QLC) is currently a part-time position. The responsibilities of this position include coordinating LGBT programming at Williams, acting as a resource for students, faculty and staff in regards to queer issues on campus, and engaging students in activism. Justin Adkins, the current QLC, has been an invaluable resource to the Williams community; countless students have and continue to go to Justin to discuss gender and sexuality issues. Many students would not be here at Williams if it were not for Justin and his work. While Justin tirelessly serves the Queer Student Union and the Anything but Straight in Athletics group as well as every queer or questioning member of this community, the College is still not willing to grant him a full-time position. As Williams LGBT students continue to face rampant homophobia and transphobia on campus, while attempting to balance their own studies, social lives and athletic pursuits with their sexuality, a full-time QLC position must be recognized as a basic need, not a luxurious want. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand that the Queer Life Coordinator be made a full time position within the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
Comprehensive LGBT Junior Advisor Training
Implementation by Spring semester 2010
The entry system is by far in a way the most unique feature of first year life at Williams. JA’s are suppose to foster an environment that is welcoming and friendly for all students, no matter their background. While JA’s undergo relatively formal diversity training, there is NO formal LGBT sensitivity training. Current JA and an out gay male Jack Wadden remembered being extremely frustrated with this fact. The only conversations the training committee had about quelling the rampant homophobia that exists at Williams or educating freshmen students about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues, were brought up by Jack. Williams should be embarrassed. Although JA’s receive zero compensation, they wholly represent the college and its goals for an all-inclusive, community-oriented campus. In that sense, not properly training them is an affirmation of the homophobic and transphobic culture of Williams. The LGBT community demands that JA’s receive proper LGBT sensitivity training as well as extensive information about LGBT resources on campus. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand that a LGBT education be a part of Junior Advisor training.
Gender Neutral Housing
Implementation by Spring semester 2010 for academic year 2010-2011
The Williams College Mission Statement lists among its core values “welcoming and supporting in the College community people from all segments of our increasingly diverse society.” We believe that gender-neutral housing is a natural extension of this goal. The current housing system implicitly makes assumptions about the sexual orientations and gender identities of Williams students. A gender-neutral housing plan, on the other hand, will help to achieve the College’s goal of inclusiveness and fairness by creating a more comfortable environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex students, and by allowing all students more freedom in their housing choices.
This plan affects upperclassmen by allowing them to choose roommates regardless of their sex. All residential houses on campus will offer gender-neutral housing, thus allowing all those who want to participate to do so. Students who choose to take advantage of the gender-neutral option will participate in the same neighborhood draw as other students with no priority given. The current gender caps placed on houses would continue to maintain a sense of balance among the students. Questions will not be asked about students’ reasons for living together. We feel that this is important to achieving the goal of inclusion and fairness in housing; same-sex roommates are not assumed to be couples, and the same should be true for opposite-sex roommates.
For the pilot program, freshmen would still be assigned same-sex roommates. However, first-year residence halls would not be arranged based on the sex of the room occupants; hallways and floors would be mixed in half of the entries. This would protect transgender and intersex students from the uncomfortable possibility of being misrepresented to their entrymates by their room location, as well as students transitioning to co-education living arrangements. After one year, however, the gender-neutral option should be considered for extension to first years as well. If this happens, the housing forms (and the Williams Common Application Supplement by extension) must be updated so that students can indicate whether they have a preference for a male or female roommate, or no preference at all regarding sex. Additionally the forms must clearly provide students with information about how to obtain confidential support for transgender- or intersex- related accommodation needs. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand that a gender neutral housing option be available for residential living.
Peer colleges and universities with gender neutral housing: Bard College, Bennington College, Brown University, Colorado College, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Grinnell College, Hampshire College, Harvard University, Haverford College, Oberlin College, Skidmore College, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, and Wesleyan University.
Gender and Sexuality Resource Center
Already Implemented/Implemented immediately
A Gender and Sexuality Resource Center is a very needed addition to the network of student resources at Williams College. The presence of such a center would provide students with a fixed place to go for support such as the counsel of other peers, the Queer Life Coordinator, printed information, or sexual health resources. There is no space like this that exists yet at Williams.
Through research and discussion about resource centers at similar colleges such as Bowdoin and Hampshire College, we have developed the following goals for the establishment of such a center at Williams College:
The Gender and Sexuality Center would provide support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and straight populations at Williams. It would be dedicated to creating a safe space for these students as well as educating the campus community about sexuality and gender identity. This space would be utilized by currently existing groups such as the Women’s Center, the Queer Student Union, Anything But Str8 in Athletics, and other groups invested these issues. The establishment of this center would create a more permanent space in which these groups could work with the college administration (including the Deans’ Office, the Office of Residential Life, the Admissions Office, the Career Planning Center, the President’s Office and the Health Center).
Hardy House would serve as a safe space in which to express and learn about gender and sexuality. Hardy House would be home to a library of queer-related books, movies, and CDs available to all students, faculty and staff as well as an archive of materials related to the history of LGBTQ issues at Williams. The current computer lab would be maintained as a study space in which discussion would be fostered. Aforementioned student groups would use Hardy House as a claimable space in which to meet, discuss, and affect programming. This would be the most appropriate space for the office of the Queer Life Coordinator. This house would also serve as space in which students could hang out and organize social activities such as dinners, movie screenings, etc.
The presence of such a center would give this large part of the Williams community a sense of representation that it currently does not have. It would provide stability to the aforementioned programs so that they could continue to meet a variety of social, cultural, educational, and community-building interests on campus. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand a Gender and Sexuality Resource.
Full Time Queer Studies Professor
Implementation by Spring semester 2011
From Johannes Wilson ’11, Queer Student Union Co-Chair:
As a student who is personally, politically, socially, and intellectually dedicated to issues of gender and especially sexuality, I feel as though Williams has not done enough to support my pursuit of these issues. The Women’s and Gender Studies department is wonderful and has intellectually stimulated me more than I ever would have imagined. I decided to become a Women’s and Gender Studies major during the spring semester of my first year here. Several courses address the issue of sexuality, but sexuality is never the main focus of any class I have taken so far. In addition, the department’s name, Women’s and Gender Studies, does not make any reference to sexuality or Queer Studies. There is only one course that can even be considered Queer Studies, which is being offered next spring. This course, Introduction to Sexuality Studies, has been overenrolled, and it is just one of the many Women’s and Gender Studies courses that several students have expressed strong interest in, and not just queer-identified students. Several students take Women’s and Gender Studies courses, and many of them also express a desire for more courses that deal with sexuality and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities.
Having a Queer Studies program demonstrates the breadth of a college’s commitment to serving its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified students, showing that it treats the experiences, histories, contemporary issues, and intellectual thought of LGBTQ individuals as serious, legitimate academic work. Taking Queer Studies at Williams can enrich a queer-identified student’s experience at this college and in their life outside of and beyond Williams.
In addition, having a Queer Studies program is a visible demonstration of the college’s commitment to queer-identified students, staff, and faculty, improving perceptions of the queer climate at Williams not just to present members of the Williams community, but also prospective students and employees of the College. The presence of a Queer Studies program, in addition to the other institutional changes we are proposing, will contribute to a greater integration of queer-identified issues and individuals within the Williams community as a whole, fostering true acceptance and inclusiveness while decreasing the acceptability of homophobia, transphobia, and sexism on campus. We need more faculty who are qualified to teach Queer Studies courses if we are to realize the benefits of having a Queer Studies program at Williams.
Current discussion within the Women’s and Gender Studies Department suggest that hiring a full time professor with a queer studies focus would allow the department to offer more LGBT oriented classes. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand a professor with a queer studies focus to allow more LGBT oriented classes.
Colleges that have “Sexuality Studies,” “LGBTQ Studies” or “Queer Studies:”
-Brown University: Gender and Sexuality Studies Dept. (concentration)
-Dartmouth College: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies (no major or minor)
-Bowdoin College: Gay and Lesbian Studies program (minor)
-Wesleyan University: Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (major)
-Swarthmore College: Gender and Sexuality Studies (major and minor)
-Smith College: Study of Women and Gender (major and minor) with Queer Studies concentration
-Wellesley College: Women’s and Gender Studies (major) with Sexualities Concentration and Intersectionalities: Race, Class, Genders, and Sexualities Concentration
-Hampshire College: Queer Studies (area of study)