Transgender Violence On College Campuses

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To some, colleges and universities are “ivory towers” isolated from the larger society. A closer look shows that this country’s academic institutions are reflections of our larger society, struggling with the same social issues and prejudices. Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The Spinnaker, a News Source from the University of North Florida, released an article reporting an incident which involved a transgender student who was assaulted and verbally threatened by a male in a campus bathroom. The report red-flagged the failure of the UNFPD to release a Clery report. The incident took place February 6 of this year and was reported to the UNFPD on February 7th.

It isn’t unusual to hear that police are poorly trained in handling cases of LGBT assaults nor unusual to hear of agencies, such as Victims Advocacy and LGBT groups reporting the way these types of incidents (as what happened February 6) are often minimized or dismissed.  The article stated that Chief Strudel’s response was “it is rare and therefore, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” However, there were concerns expressed by Strudel that his statements were taken out of context when I spoke with him this afternoon. As someone who works as an advocate, activist and photojournalist on LGBT issues, my first reaction in reading this statement in the Spinnaker, was “Is this an accurately recorded statement?” My second reaction was to seek clarification since any incident involving an assault on campus would warrant a Clery report. If you aren’t aware of what a Clery report is, know that it is a set of federally mandated guidelines for universities. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education. Clerycenter.org

Both Title 9 and the Clery report serve to protect students on campuses, so to have guidelines in place and not follow the protocols would be an act of non-disclosure and not serve in the best interest of the population who are most at risk for hate crimes.  Strudel denied that he stated that the case was not a hate crime and in fact, insisted that he kept having to correct the reporter. Strudel stated that the reporter took things out of context. A similar complaint by Kaitlin Legg, when I spoke with her earlier this afternoon, was that she had to repeatedly correct the reporter on a number of statements taken out of context. Legg is acting director of the LGBT Resource Center.

According to the article, the cameras were not checked by the campus PD. Strudel stated that initially when the report came in on February 7, the day after the crime, some of the details were not available, such as where the crime took place nor the name of the victim. Once the PD received this information the Communications sector on campus reviewed the footages. According to Strudel not all the cameras on UNF campus are updated; some are around 7 years old and are analogs and clarity is an issue. Dr. Thomas Serwatka, VP at UNF, emphasized the concerns he and President John Delaney had regarding the delay in releasing the Clery report and investigated the falling out with the campus procedure as soon as they learned of the article in the Spinnaker. Strudel stated that he recognized that he should have released this report immediately, regardless of not having all the information and felt he was protecting the student. Serwatka stated that UNF does not tolerate hate crimes nor non-disclosures of these incidences and are implementing protocols to ensure that procedures are followed regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the individual. The UNFPD is now implementing the procedure for all cases of assaults and had released the crime report later this afternoon. News coverage on First Coast News took place this evening at 11 p.m on the released crime report.

©An Goldbauer

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The Damage of Having Hidden Agendas

close-up-colors-face-925330Organizational behavior is an interesting study among activists and volunteers who work together to improve the quality of life among oppressed groups. Members serving on committees, who are blind-sighted by hidden agendas, not privy to all information or proposed changes, are in danger of falling victim to the very facet which they vow to eliminate; oppression. Distrust sets in among members who now find themselves, victims of oppression; triggering dysfunction and obstructing the fluidity of the process. When a proposal is presented by the individual running the process, as something which was suggested in prior months by members whose names are not mentioned, to restructure the organizational reporting by those who have selectively self assigned entitlement to certain roles and activities, a heightened sense of awareness among the oppressed members ensues and without any words exchanged, the dynamics within the group change.

I am referring to the process of a Jacksonville’s committee whose members were intent to see to it that the HRO would pass at the local level without any assistance by outside groups, whose individuals are accustomed to working with political agendas, but were asked to take a back seat. Rumors flew throughout the community and tensions escalated. Questions from community members were “Why a large organization, such as Equality Florida, would not be invited to the table and take a position at the forefront of the process?” The general consensus among the LGBT public was that the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing and that they could have benefitted from outside support. Others argued that the changes needed to be done at the local level without outside assistance. Who was in charge? No one really knew, but some of the individuals in the LGBT community surmised that it was a selective group of individuals who were viewed as secretive and not willing to freely disclose matters. While the new members are assured that any future process will be transparent, validation and accountability are going to be put through a Litmus test.

What strengthens freedom among members serving on committees is the belief in allowing expression of all thoughts to flourish. Dysfunction occurs when the parties are not forthcoming and camouflage truth through establishing a power grab of those whom they have deemed unworthy or less capable of serving as part of the inner circle, (not by majority vote) witnessing the proposal to demote some of the members by recommending a change in structure, (not by any voting process transparent to the entire committee), leaving much doubt and dismay among some of the members.

Some of the members expressed that they were just handed the kiss of death. Distrust could be pulsed throughout the room. The realization sat in that they were not deemed, any longer, politically correct or worthy of any contribution. The question which comes to mind among members, is “Who are the gatekeepers?”. Glances were swiftly swapped from one individual to another in roundtable fashion, while the tension among the power players increased. Some of the members weren’t easily swayed by colorfully presented denials that they might actually have gone back to gatekeeping.

Reluctancy sets in among some of those who have financially and emotionally invested and contributed their time and energy and trust to improve quality and performance within organizational structures, circumventing those who want to gatekeep through the art of asking questions to help dispel any possible hidden agendas, which disrupt healthy process and otherwise would hinder bringing about the desired change. When practices are in question and are overlooked or not challenged inside the borders, that is when the dysfunction sets in. Circumvention calls for a strategy and should be implemented by the members to enforce corrective measures and ethical behavior in order to reduce any chance of oppression; insisting on equality at this basic level among all of the members, who signed up to improve their communities, would ensure respect among the group and enhance their interests in working collaboratively to wipe out discrimination. The first course of action might result in a decision to challenge the process with the support of peers, advisers or financial backers before they remove themselves from the process. When committee members question professional conduct it might be time to challenge the platform.

©An Goldbauer