On Monday, March 27, the Office of Institutional Research and the Office of LGBTQ Services partnered to host the Queer and Trans Data Discussion. The event focused on centering the experiences of queer and trans Dickinson students and strategizing to improve the campus climate for these students. The inspiration for the event came from an extension of the Student Engagement Survey collected last year. In looking over the results from this survey, Jason Rivera, the Director of Institutional Research, noticed a marked difference between the satisfaction of queer and trans students in comparison with the satisfaction of their straight and cis counterparts. Rivera also noted how large the LGBTQ population is at Dickinson. As he said in his presentation of the data, the national average of LGBTQ people is around 3 to 6% of Americans, whereas at Dickinson the queer and trans population is around 11%. Due to the significance of this population and its notable difference from the general satisfaction on campus, strategizing to figure out why this sense of dissatisfaction is occurring and finding solutions to make the campus more inclusive of queer and trans students should be a priority of the College.
Following the results of this survey, Rivera conducted interviews with 14 LGBTQ-identifying Dickinsonians. Months of work between Institutional Research and the Office of LGBTQ Services came to fruition to inform this presentation summarizing the results of the Student Engagement Survey and the interviews collected by Rivera. The interviews presented four major themes to focus on: identity, community, discrimination, and mitigating the divide between school and home. Rivera included quotes from several interviewees to elaborate on these themes and personalize the results of the survey. After the presentation of the data, students and staff members broke into smaller groups to discuss the content in relation to these themes. Then the entire group engaged in a discussion of ways to improve the campus climate for queer and trans students.
Participants in this discussion proved to have great insight on how exactly queer and trans Dickinsonians navigate this campus, some speaking from their personal experience. One of the most rudimentary steps discussed to improve the campus climate was having professors inquire about and properly implement pronoun usage in and out of the classroom. Also in relation to the classroom environment, we talked about holding professors accountable for gaps in their knowledge on basic queer and gender-related issues, instead of having them rely constantly on the emotional labor of their queer and trans students. We also strategized as to how to make the social scene on campus one that is actively inclusive of queer and trans students. The group also touched on how we can be more cognizant of the fact that queer and trans students going home for breaks may not be experiencing the traditional refresher we associate with break.
This event was a first step of many to ensure that queer and trans Dickinson students feel that their experiences and their needs are validated and affirmed by all members of the Dickinson community. When one of the three pillars of this institution is inclusivity and a minoritized population of students is dissatisfied with their experience, the campus should engage in some introspection and figure out why that is. The Queer and Trans Data Discussion was a response to the need to openly discuss the experiences of queer and trans Dickinson students and strategize as to how we can improve as an institution moving forward.
Liam Fuller ’17, Office of LGBTQ Services intern