Campus Faculty Group To Continue LGBTQ Advocacy

After a year of successful programs and researching, members of the LGBTQ faculty and community are continuing group operations into the 2012-13 academic year.

The group, originally brought together by means of a mass email system called LISTSERV, has helped put together a variety of programs such as a screening of the documentary “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” this past March. Members of the group were also involved in the campus climate survey that was distributed to the SUNY New Paltz community last November.

Assistant Professor Benjamin Junge was one of the faculty members who helped to first organize the group in the fall of 2010. Junge said LGBTQ-identified staff members came together because they wanted to find a way to communicate with one another and get to know each other better.

“Staff and faculty just came to the organic realization that we didn’t have a way of reaching one another,” Junge said. “People that didn’t really know each other in different corners of the campus and it would be nice to have some sort of clearing house for all of us.”

Junge said the group started as just a LISTSERV that fall, and was originally compromised of 20 faculty members. Now, Junge said, the group has almost doubled in size.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Karl Bryant, one of the members of the group, said they will often partner with other academic units and student-run groups to come up with and promote programs.

Bryant said having a faculty group sponsoring events, such as film screenings, helps improve campus life for students and opens up different venues.

“One of the goals of a group like this is to serve the student body and help to improve the overall campus climate,” Bryant said. “Having the faculty come together absolutely benefits the student body.”

One of the most recent events the group helped to sponsor was a lecture discussing the issue of homophobia among African leaders. The event, called “Trans-Saharan Trade-The Cultural Routes of African Homophobia,” was also co-sponsored by the Women’s Studies and Sociology Departments and Campus Auxiliary Services. Associate Professor of Anthropology from SUNY Purchase, Rudolf P. Gaudio, came to discuss his paper which “explores the dynamics of race and sexuality within Africa that influences contemporary expressions of homophobia that cannot be reduced to the European colonial encounter,” a flier advertising the event said.

Second-year secondary education major Faiqa Amreen said the event was a great learning experience, and she was exposed to information she wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

“I feel like all we’re told is that Africa isn’t a place you want to be if you’re a homosexual, but there’s so much more to it than just that,” Amreen said. “I thought it was a great learning experience.”

Currently, the group is compiling the data gathered from the campus climate survey conducted last fall. Junge said aside from the work the group is doing, it’s also been beneficial in creating a happier, more united work environment.

“I can say from personal experience that there are a bunch of queer faculty that I didn’t know existed or I didn’t know were queer who I got to know and it’s nice,” Junge said. “It’s great to have that connection with people who I otherwise wouldn’t have much to deal with.”