The past several years have witnessed many important developments in the promotion of LGBTQ visibility and equality at URI, including the creation of the President’s LGBTQ Commission.
In 2010, Ann Morrissey organized a subgroup of the URI Equity Council to advance issues for LGBTQ community members. An open invitation was sent out to the entire URI community inviting anyone to join this new group whose goal was to develop an agenda for the future. Approximately 25 faculty, staff, and students joined the effort.
The subcommittee focused on three key areas:
- Equity in Personnel Related Benefits and Policies especially related to non-discrimination language, sick, family, and bereavement leave, health insurance, and tuition waivers.
- Education and Awareness including developing more programming for students, faculty, and staff, ensuring a more inclusive pedagogy and curriculum, and developing areas for collaboration.
- Safety and Health with an emphasis on ensuring a campus climate that is safe and healthy, including easy availability of gender neutral bathrooms.
Working on these three subcommittees, the group met monthly as an entire committee.The final report, in April, 2011 described the group’s findings and provided recommendations that were shared with Interim Chief Diversity Officer Kathryn Friedman and President Dooley. (please see http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/lgbtiqq/1/).
In 2011 Lynn McKinney, then Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, joined the group as co-chair with Ann Morrissey, and the committee sponsored its first social event for LGBTQ faculty and staff. The sub-committee members continued to work on these three priorities and, in 2013, President Dooley declared the committee a Presidential Commission.
Since that time, the Commission has made significant progress on the following initiatives:
- In 2015, all union contracts under the control of the University added robust anti-discrimination statements as well as definitions of family which include lgbtq faculty and staff.
- The Provost’s office has and continues to sponsor workshops on inclusive pedagogy
- The Gender and Women’s Studies program is moving ahead with a Queer Studies minor.
- Gender neutral bathrooms have been identified and gender neural signs have been added; that work continues.
- The department of housing has developed and implemented an LGBTQ Friendly roommate matching program within it’s housing application.
- In 2016, the Commission hosted the first annual Holigay party as an important social event for the LGBTQ community. It was a huge success and we look forward to more such events!
- In 2017, the Commission launched the Out and Proud at URI project to promote the visibility of URI’s lgbtq faculty, staff, and allies and encourage mentoring, awareness and networking. The goal of the project is to increase our sense of community and to let our students, staff and faculty know that they are well supported and not alone here at URI.
The Commission continues to work on areas of Visibility, Policies, Community Building and Assessment. If you are interested in learning more about the Commission, pleases contact one of our co-chairs.