Gay College Presidents Form Group to Push for LGBT Academics
A new group for LGBT academics has been announced by a meeting of out college presidents that convened in Chicago recently, Inside Higher Ed reported on Aug. 9.
A total of 25 openly gay and lesbian university and college professors were invited to the meeting; only nine attended, the article said, but what those nine leaders in education formulated is LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, a new organization that will support LGBT academics and promote equality and leadership.
Among other concerns the group cited was a need for the general subject of diversity in the culture to include material on sexual minorities and their concerns. Another was to address the family needs of LGBT academics.
"I think it was great that we met," said the University of Maine at Farmington’s Theodora J. Kalikow. "We all kind of felt we were making history, and we had a really good time talking about issues that were relevant to us as presidents and as LGBT people."
"As university presidents, we talked first and foremost about what is our presidential responsibility as leaders in higher education," said Roosevelt University’s president, Charles Middleton. "To that end, the group will focus on leadership development for those who are gay presidents or who aspire to be, professional development for gay people at all levels of academe, and on education and advocacy to promote equity and diversity." Added Middleton, "As the world evolves, we are going to have things to say on specific issues."
Middleton also said that GLBT academic leaders "need to be taken off the exclusion list" when it comes to furthering the nation’s educational goals.
"I think it’s no accident that there’s an appetite to do this right now," noted the president of the Adler School of Professional Psychology, Raymond Crossman. "It’s a particular moment in the culture right now, and I think we have something to offer about educating the academy." The article noted that LGBT issues have been in the headlines lately, with an anti-family equality ballot initiative having been found unconstitutional in California because it targets gays and lesbians for a loss of rights that heterosexuals continue to enjoy. "I think that as presidents of colleges and universities there’s always been a role to take positions, to be part of a continuing dialogue in our culture," added Crossman. The group has plans to try to meet on a yearly basis.
Anti-gay organizations were quick to take note of the new group and its stated "agenda." ""This group of higher-ups within academia [is] going to be, from the top down throughout our universities around the country, pushing the political agenda of the radical homosexual activist left; we are going to see that from them," predicted Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, according to an Aug. 17 article at anti-gay news site OneNewsNow.
"I think the role of a college president should be to promote the highest quality environment for academic learning and freedom," said Candi Cushman, who serves as education analyst for anti-gay group Citizenlink, which is affiliated with Focus on the Family. Text at the Citizenlink website includes topics such as "How to Respond to Homosexual Advocacy in Your School."
Friendly Campuses a Sign of the Culture
But a greater visibility and acceptance of GLBT leaders in education may be inevitable, given a cultural shift that increasingly sets aside notions that gays are "immoral" because of their family lives. An essay by an early out college president, Ralph J. Hexter, that appeared at Inside Higher Ed on Jan. 25, 2007, recounted that Hexter himself had been profiled in the 2006 book The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives are Excelling as Leaders ...and What Every Manager Needs to Know, by Kirk Snyder. The book, Hexter noted, "began... with a survey several years back that revealed that employees of gay managers were substantially more satisfied in their jobs than the average, and he went on from there."
Hexter became the president of Hampshire College, located in Massachusetts, in 2005. "Word was that I might just be the first gay male president of a residential college, and certainly among the first few, of any institution, who have not been closeted," wrote Hexter, who went on to acknowledge that many of his LGBT peers encountered a "glass ceiling" that hindered their career progress without regard to their talents or accomplishments.
Online services geared to college-bound youth celebrate pro-LGBT progress on the nation’s campuses. The Campus Pride blog at Campus Q&A announced a newly-updated edition of its LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index, which provides "an in-depth look at LGBT-friendly policies, programs and practices" at more than 230 schools.
Campus Pride also hailed 19 colleges and universities that ranked on top, with five-star scores. "The 19 five-star-ranked campuses include: Carleton College; Humboldt State University; Ithaca College; Oberlin College; Oregon State University; Princeton University; San Diego State University; Syracuse University; The Ohio State University; The Pennsylvania State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Riverside; University of Maine, Farmington; University of Oregon; University of Pennsylvania; University of Southern California; University of Vermont; and Washington University in St. Louis," reported the online resource, going on to note that other schools were also "taking steps to ’come out’ for their LGBT students."
"The rising number of campuses across the nation willing to stand up and speak out for their LGBT students is a testament to the growing recognition that educational environments should be safe and inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," Campus Pride’s executive director, Shane Windmeyer, said.