Elon progresses in strategic plan for LGBTQIA community

by Dalton Cox

The lobby of Elon's Gender and LGBTQIA Center
The lobby of Elon’s Gender and LGBTQIA Center Photo by Dalton Cox

On May 10, 2015, Elon University’s LGBTQIA Task Force Implementation and Assessment Team released its first annual progress report in a 3-year strategic plan, aimed at bettering the experiences of Elon’s LGBTQIA students, staff, faculty and alumni.

Rodney Parks is Elon’s registrar and a member of the University’s LGBTQIA Task Force Implementation and Assessment Team.

“It does reaffirm to every student that we value this group of people on campus, and you have a lot of us who are really fighting hard to push for the rights of students, faculty and staff alike to make this a campus of equality,” Parks said. “I think we have a long ways to go but we’ve done a lot of work in a very short period of time.”

Some of the highlight achievements include Elon’s the implementation of LGBTQIA housing with mixed genders, as well as the option for applicants to Elon to identify their sexual orientation or gender identity on their college application.

“One of the biggest things that we’re so proud of is asking the question on the admissions application, ‘do you affiliate with the LGBT community,’ ” Parks said. “I think with the incoming First-Year class, you’re looking at 6 percent that actually answered that question.”

Sara Machi is a current First Year at Elon, who identifies as an ally to the LBGTQIA community. Machi plans to live in LGBTQIA housing next year.

Letter by Barack Obama recognizing Elon's efforts in LGBTQIA inclusivity. Click to enlarge. Photo by Dalton Cox
Letter by Barack Obama recognizing Elon’s efforts in LGBTQIA inclusivity. Click to enlarge.
Photo by Dalton Cox

“You don’t want people to feel uncomfortable in their home on campus,” Machi said. “This offers a way for people to live with people that they feel the most comfortable living with.”

Over the past academic year, Elon’s Campus Pride Index ranking has risen above over 250 colleges and universities.

Kirstin Ringelberg is a professor of art history at Elon. She worries that Elon’s efforts to recruit more LGBTQIA students may create initial disappointments.

“There’s a difference between what we want to achieve and whether or not we’re achieving it,” Ringelberg said. “We are also creating a situation of disappointment. You’re experience is going to be different than the type of campus that we’re advertising, and that’s not unique to Elon. Lots of university admissions offices often advertise a campus that is more diverse than what they actually have.”

Kimberly Fath is an assessment specialist at Elon and a member of the LGBTQIA Task Force Implementation and Assessment Team. Fath spoke about some of the next steps in the initiative. As Parks mentioned, there is still a long way to go.

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