Report lists myriad ways to improve ‘LGBTQ climate’ at UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill needs a great deal more courses in “Sexuality Studies,” special theme housing for gay students, domestic-partner benefits for gay faculty and a revision of dependent benefits to include unadopted children in a domestic-partner arrangement, and the creation of a new campus office, complete with directors, staff, and an advisory committee, to consolidate academic and support resources for gay students, faculty, and staff.

That’s according to just a few of the recommendations contained within a recently released report to the provost on “growing acceptance amid lingering and pernicious discrimination” at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Entitled “The Report of the Provost’s Planning Committee on LGBTQ Climate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” it calls UNC-CH to uphold its “strong commitment to the values of equality and diversity [that] has been reflected tangibly in the University’s establishment and development of the Black Cultural Center and the Women’s Center” with respect to “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified (LGBTQ) individuals.”

The report came about upon the request of Robert N. Shelton, executive vice chancellor and provost. Each section in the report lists an individual charge from Shelton as its genesis. Shelton charged the committee to review and make suggestions for improvement in the following areas: the university’s field of sexuality studies, the campus climate for LGBTQ members, benefits for LGBTQ staff and faculty, how the university is meeting its service mission with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, fundraising strategies for LGBTQ interests, and administrative structures for developing, implementing, and evaluating policies and services for LGBTQ members.

The report’s recommendations are many, and Shelton has informed the committee that some “would require legislative approval.” He also has explained that “the current budget crises makes taking these steps more difficult.” The recommendations include:

• revising “existing courses to include material relevant to Sexuality Studies and to develop new courses in Sexuality Studies,” and having deans “routinely write letters of thanks to faculty members offering courses in the area [of Sexuality Studies], to be put in their files”

• establishing a “Program in Sexual Studies under the auspices of the Office of LGBTQ Life & Study” — which itself must be established, complete with standing advisory committee, director, programming director, position for a “Center for Healthy Student Behaviors,” LGBTQ development coordinator, and four work-study students

• increasing library purchase of “Sexuality Studies resources”

• “encourag[ing] departments to evaluate courses in terms of their content pertaining to issues of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation on their course evaluation forms”

• ensuring minority student “pre-orientation” includes “materials that address the specific needs and concerns of LGBTQ students of color”

• ensuring that university housing includes “LGBTQ living options,” since housing “does not allow live-in same-sex partners” (although “married heterosexual partners” may live together provided they have “documentation of legal married status”), and since there are no “theme housing” or other “housing options specific to LGBTQ students and no way for incoming students to identify ‘friendly’ roommates”

• screening all recruiters through University Career Services and all internships done through the University “to ensure that their policies are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities”

• inclusion of all same-sex “domestic partners” in the university’s “spousal relocation initiatives” and health insurance coverage, and also “defin[ing] the children of employees and their domestic partners as eligible dependents under benefits packages” (current policies require legal adoption by the employee if the employee is not the child’s biological parent)

• creating a confidential lending library within the Office of LGBTQ Life & Study, to offer “books, movies, periodicals, and other media”

• mandating LGBTQ sensitivity training for “all professional and education students”

• creating a position within the university for LGBTQ fundraising and developing donors for LGBTQ interests, including helping “LGBTQ seniors [senior citizens] to make bequests to LGBTQ-focused organizations and initiatives, [known as ] ‘compassionate estate planning'”

• appointing more (“an adequate representation”) LGBTQ faculty to university committees on diversity and equal opportunity; and

• having the university “provide assistance, expertise, and encouragement to other schools in the UNC system” in developing similar programs on those campuses.

Shelton said his staff will work to “develop a budget for the next fiscal year, bearing in mind the very limited funds that may be available.” The report is available on the provost’s web site,