Student focus group outlines LGBT office

A new Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs could open on campus if a student, faculty and staff focus group has its way.

The focus group met on Friday to debate the need for an Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs that would bring all the LBGT organizations on campus together.

At the group's previous meeting, they discussed the need for an LGBT center and met resistance from ASUA's Pride Alliance representatives because a new LGBT(Q) group that

I don't think we need to meld into one big queer amoeba.

- Brian Shimamoto,
interim director of Asian-Pacific American Student Affairs and a member of President Robert Shelton's LGBT advisory council on keeping existing LGBT groups separate from the new Office of LGBT Affairs

may end up replacing them. However, since the new LGBT organization would be an Office of Affairs, members of Price Alliance began to speak in agreement about the function of the office.

""With all these different organizations, there's not a lot of communication between them,"" said Brian Shimamoto, Interim director of Asian-Pacific American Student Affairs and a member of President Robert Shelton's LGBT advisory council.

The focus group said the Office of LGBT Affairs could be a place for all the LGBT(Q) groups to go with questions and concerns.

""We can have a much bigger presence and we can give more support,"" said Rachael Poe, a family studies and human development junior.

However, a recent informal poll on the Arizona Daily Wildcat Web site showed 41 percent of people did not think there was enough reason for an LGBT center because there is already enough support for the LGBT community.

After discussing the results of this poll, the LGBT focus group began to list the numerous responsibilities such an office could have.

""People could come to that office and ask for their input on LGBT faculty and staff issues,"" said Eithne Luibheid, an associate professor of women's studies who is the director of the Committee on LGBT Studies.

Faculty issues include support for their scholarship and teaching in LGBT areas of study, promotion and tenure issues involved with discrimination, and benefit problems including lack of domestic partner benefits for full-time UA employees, Luibheid said.

For example, sometimes an LGBT professor may get poor evaluations from students because of their affiliation, but the administration responsible for approving tenure does not know the reasoning behind the poor evaluations, Luibheid said.

The focus group agreed that parents of LGBT students also need support and a place to get questions and concerns answered.

Caren Zimmerman, coordinator for the Committee on LGBT Studies said there is a need for a liaison between the UA LGBT groups and community LGBT groups like Wingspan.

The Office of LGBT Affairs could also serve as a referral source LGBT support, organizations, and student affiliates.

""I think it would be really great if this office could work closely with Pride Alliance,"" said Jami Reinsch, administrative vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, who oversees the directors of groups like Pride Alliance.

Shimamoto also discussed the need for a place to oversee the academic pursuit of knowledge regarding LGBT issues, which would assist researchers in acquiring grants and sponsors for research projects.

Initially, the main concern was a new LGBT office may trample on the other LGBT groups on campus, but the focus group debated over duties and decided that was not the case.

""I don't think we need to meld into one big queer amoeba,"" Shimamoto said.

The office would simply strive to meet the growing needs for LGBT(Q) and allied people of the university by getting LGBT groups to communicate, focusing on faculty and staff concerns, and having liaisons between community groups. Currently, no organization, club, or office has the ability to meet those needs.

Information from the focus group will be sent to Shelton.


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