The College of Education (COE) was recently named Pride Partner by the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning) Resource Center. In becoming a Pride Partner, the college is reinforcing to students their commitment to provide a safe space on campus where everyone is treated respectfully.
Approximately twenty instructors currently teaching in the college attended a special training session on Wednesday, November 18th designed to help them better understand the LGBTQ student. Lorraine Schroeder, the director for the LBGTQ Resource Center at the University of Houston (UH) said, “LGBTQ people exist on campus and in our classrooms. Whether they feel safe, represented, respected, and part of the UH campus community is very much determined by faculty thinking outside of the heteronormative box to validate the existence of LGBTQ people in our classrooms and in our world.”
Training included dialogue on how to use inclusive language in the classroom, the best way to introduce sensitive subjects in a way that will not negatively impact students, as well as traditional and progressive gender models. Patrick Lukingbeal, director of Wellness Programs at the UH Wellness Center received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology & Individual Differences from COE and assisted Schroeder in the training. Lukingbeal said, “It is critical that we create and sustain an inclusive and open atmosphere for LGBTQ students. I applaud the College of Education for hosting this workshop and instilling these values with their faculty and staff.”
One of the strategies presented in the training, Validate, Inform, Refer (V.I.R.), included information on how to respond to a student when one comes to them for advice. The proper way to handle the discussion is to “V”, validate their concern and feelings; “I”, inform the students about various campus and community resources to help address their concerns; and “R”, refer the students to one of the many campus resources such as the LGBTQ Resource Center or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Breathe, Acknowledge, Respond (B.A.R.) is another tool which is helpful to alleviate situations in gatherings when comments are made that may make students uncomfortable. Before responding to a negative comment, one should first “breathe” (B) in order to pause and think about an appropriate response, “acknowledge” (A) the person making the comment while letting the person know you understand how it may be difficult and uncomfortable to be in situation where a person is different than they are and may not share the same beliefs they do, and “respond” (R) in an appropriate way that both lets the person who made the response know it is not an acceptable response, while at the same time allowing the student who may be uncomfortable with the response know someone cares and is promoting a safe atmosphere for all students.
The highlight of the training was when the student panel was introduced. The panel of three students told the audience their personal stories and answered questions from the instructors. They were able to give the instructors instances when they were put in awkward situations in the classroom and shared how those situations made them feel. They also offered pointers on how using inclusive language in the classroom goes a long way in making them feel valued. Janeen Antonelli, lecturer for Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS), used the LGBTQ Resource Center as a learning tool for her students in HDFS 4318 (Human Ecology of Parenting). She made arrangements with the center to provide a student panel, much like the one used in this training, to allow her students to hear from fellow students about their “coming out” experiences. The students in the class were allowed to ask questions and gain valuable knowledge regarding recommendations for facilitating safe spaces in the classroom and around campus. Antonelli said "Cougar Ally Training is a unique opportunity to learn more about the experiences of the UH LGBTQ community and how to create a safe space for all of our students - directly from our fellow COOGS who self-identify as LGBTQ! It's a powerful class and a valuable campus resource that no one should miss!"
If you have not yet attended a Cougar Ally training, please consider doing so. Sign up for training using P.A.S.S. using Access UH. Under the Request Training link, type in Cougar Ally Training in the search box.