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Over 200 people sign faculty petition in support of LGBTQ campus community

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Valerie Forstman
The Brite Divinity School marched in last year’s Tarrant County Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of: Valerie Forstman)

A petition regarding the LGBTQ community circulated amongst faculty on Oct. 5 and got just over 200 signatures by Oct. 11, the day it was sent to TCU’s president and provost.

Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies Nino Testa, a petition organizer, said that the LGBTQ community needs to have a place within TCU’s diversity, equity and inclusion focus. TCU campus’s DEI does not specifically name queer identities or work to better the LBGTQ community for faculty and students.

The petition represents the concerns of over 200 faculty, from each of our nine colleges, about the climate for LGBTQ people on campus. It asks the university to make clear its values on the inclusion of LGBTQ people and the role of LGBTQ studies in a university curriculum, at a time when these things feel contested in our culture.

— Nino Testa, associate professor of woman and gender studies, petition organizer

The petition also acknowledges that October is LGBTQ History Month. Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, which is the day the petition was sent in.

“October is a fitting occasion for such a public, university-wide engagement with queer history and climate at TCU,” Dr. Testa added. 

LGBTQ campus history

Dr. Testa and the faculty felt that a petition was necessary because of the long history of discrimination against LGBTQ faculty and students on campus.

“This has been a very challenging year for LGBTQ people on campus and in Texas. This petition is a way to tell LGBTQ students, in particular, that faculty see you and are trying to make this campus one that is worthy of your presence here,” said Dr. Testa.

Here is a timeline of events depicting moments when the LGBTQ community was silenced at TCU:

2009: TCU canceled the launch of all Living-Learning Communities on campus after getting a negative review from Fox News.

2014: TCU denied a change from the current title “Women & Gender Studies” to “Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.”

2018: A committee came together and saw a need for a resource office for LGBTQ students. They wanted to include the terms “gender and sexuality” in the name of the office. Instead, it is currently named the Gender Resource Office. The office is unstaffed. 

2019: TCU canceled the Drag Queen Story Hour event because it was not “child-friendly.”

2020: The LGBTQ Support Task Force was created in Student Affairs after students fought for it. There was no promotion of this addition to campus. 

2021: TCU Alum Morris Kight is a gay liberation activist and organized the first-ever Gay Pride Parade in 1970. TCU has never honored Kight or LGBT Pride Month out of concern that the university might face backlash from parents and donors. 

Strategies proposed to better TCU’s DEI

The petition proposes calls on the university to make statements in support of the campus LGBTQ community.

The petition also calls for the president and provost to make an action plan with the LGBTQ community for inclusion in the future. It is essential for LGBTQ faculty to be a part of the curation of this plan.

LGBTQ people are the experts on their own needs and their voices should be centered in crafting university policy on issues that impact the community,” said Dr. Testa. 

TCU360 reached out to the university for comment, but hasn’t gotten a response.

TCU’s Response

On behalf of President Daniel Pullin and Provost Teresa Dahlberg, Chief Inclusion Officer Johnathan Benjamin-Alvarado responded with a letter.

Testa, faculty and students do not feel that the response adequately fulfilled the needs that the petition requested.

“They made no pledge to make statements of support or to initiate the development of strategic plan for LGBTQ people or studies on campus,” said Dr. Testa.

In response, Testa encouraged signatories to keep trying by doing various things. He ensured that TCU faculty had the proper tools to contact the correct people. Faculty from all colleges and departments signed the petition. The graphic attached summarizes Testa’s letter to those who signed.

The petition was not successful, however, Testa is still persevering by offering other solutions to the TCU faculty and LGBTQ community. Despite the response given, the 200-plus signatures show the LGBTQ community that they are loved and supported.

Students are now organizing a petition to send to President Pullin and Provost Dahlberg. More details on that to come.

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