Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Making the Classroom Welcoming and Safe for LGBTQ Students

A recent study of Fordham LGBTQ students (including grad and professional) revealed that nearly two thirds feel “uncomfortable or unsafe” in the classroom. And 46% feel uncomfortable or unsafe around their professors or advisors.

How can we improve things?

We doubt anyone intends to exclude. But LGBTQ students tell us that faculty occasionally assume that students are heterosexual and cisgender. It may be the hardest and the most important thing for us to do: watch our assumptions.

One suggestion often offered by advocates is to revise our materials for unintentional bias. Small changes—substituting neutral terms such as “parents” for “mother and father” or “partners” for “husband and wife”—can go a long way.

We know some faculty who ask students to indicate not only what name they wish to answer to but also which gender pronouns (or gender-neutral alternatives) they prefer. Some LGBTQ students will choose to hide their identities. But the affirming message we send when we say something as simple as, “I want you to call me Erick, and I want you to use ‘he, him, and his’ when referring to me in the third person,” will not be missed.

Our website has material about diversity sensitivity and about what micro-aggressions are and how to avoid them. If you take a look, certainly let us know what you think. We also want to enlist your help to share more. Know a good website that we ought to link to? Got a good book that you can recommend to your colleagues? Tell us. If you have ideas to share, let us know. We want to hear them.


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