New Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity

25 comments

In an ongoing effort to continue to foster a university climate that promotes equity, inclusion and affirmation for persons who are sexually and gender diverse, Millersville University has formed the President’s Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity. The commission will “actively support policies, practices and programs that pursue this goal for students, staff, faculty, administrators and the general public with respect to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

The commission will support the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender/transsexual, questioning/queer, intersex, and allies/androgynous/asexual (LGBTQIA) community and will focus on advocacy of LGBTQIA rights and issues for all students, faculty, and staff.  Dr. Blaise Liffick, who has served on the LGBTQIA committee, will chair the commission.

“This commission will look at ways to ensure LGBTQIA equity and inclusion in the areas of employment, recruitment, academic life, student life and academic offerings,” said Hiram Martinez, assistant to the president for social equity & diversity.

The new commission will serve as an important partner to the President’s Commission on Cultural Diversity & Inclusion and the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

The commission will also continue its support of the Safe Zone Program, Sexuality and Gender Institute, and MU Allies. The Safe Zone Program is a visible network of University employees who wish to be supportive of members of the campus community who are LGBTQIA; the Sexuality and Gender institute focuses on event programming; and MU Allies is a group for all students regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and a place for students to come together and socialize without fear of persecution or discrimination.

  1. Robin Brooks says:

    This is awesome, as a new student I am so excited to be starting a new journey as well as finding out that I will feel safe and comfortable on campus. I would like to be a part of this in any way that I can help Please feel free to let me know more about it.

    • Can’t wait to see you on campus Robin! Don’t worry you will be perfectly safe on this campus, there is plenty of accepting people and organizations to help if you have any trouble. Feel free to send us a message so you know when our meeting times are and such! Our email is alliesmillersville@gmail.com

      AJ Lee

      Programs Director of the GSA@MU (Allies)

  2. John bockelmann says:

    Glad to hear you are making progress in this area! Being gay, i felt isolated at msc as well as while i was teaching high school. To be outed was to be fired. Best wishes, a new day is dawning.

  3. Dr. Lewis Shoemaker says:

    I was saddened to see that Millersville is establishing a commission on gender and sexual diversity. I care for all of my students whether they are struggling with lust, pornography, alcoholism, pre-marital sex, smoking, same-sex attractions or issues related to identity but also recognize that students can make poor choices. Like most of the list above, LGBTQIA behavior tears at the very fabric of our society. It is the cause of much social distress as well as a source of physical distress in promoting the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS. We need to be caring for our students but not enabling illicit behavior. Hence I cannot support this commission. There are several organizations that reach out to those struggling with sexuality issues. (Restored Hope Network, Desert Stream Ministries, and Katharos Integrity Alliance). Desert Stream has two local chapters right here in Lancaster County.

    • Adam Lauver says:

      As a Millersville University graduate, I’m going to have to go ahead and put my education to use by pushing back on some of those assertions and implications of yours.

      LGBTQIA “behavior” (as if that’s even an easily defined term, considering that the LGBTQIA label encompasses a wide variety of individuals, identities, and lifestyles) does not “tear at the very fabric of our society.” It is, in fact, a significant part of society’s fabric if only by virtue of its existence and by virtue of the fact that many decent, upstanding, and productive members of society (including many of your students) happen to identify as LGBTQIA. They do not undermine, subvert, or corrupt society; they participate in, contribute to, and cultivate it in diverse and meaningful ways. (I would even venture to say that there are at least a few people out there who have lusted, watched pornography, or smoked a cigarette or a joint that have actually strengthened the fabric of their communities rather than tearing it apart–but that’s beside the point.)

      Additionally, I would point out pretty emphatically that there isn’t a single sexually transmitted infection that is exclusive to the LGBTQIA community, and that safe sex behavior ought to be encouraged among all individuals regardless of who they’re having sex with. Your suggestion that “LGBTQIA behavior” (again, a nonsensical term in this context, especially seeing as how the “A” stands for “asexual”) “promotes” the spread of diseases is at once glib, uninformed, and offensive to the countless organizations serving the LGBTQIA community (many of which are Christ-based) that are dedicated to promoting safe and fulfilling sexual practices among diverse populations.

      I would very strongly encourage you to examine humbly and critically your obvious personal biases regarding this issue, as they seem to have impeded your ability to view your students not as theological symbols for you to frown at in judgment, but as normal, beautiful, developing human beings worthy of love, dignity, and respect. I would also encourage you to educate yourself further on the complexities and nuances of LGBTQIA communities, issues, and viewpoints, so that you can discuss them in the future with a more adequate and enriched understanding of what they actually do. Since your faith is obviously important to you, I’d suggest starting somewhere such as The Gay Christian Network or Believe Out Loud.

      Best of luck.

    • Dr. Blaise Liffick says:

      For those interested in broadening their understanding of issues related to sexual orientation, I recommend the following resources:
      • Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation, Simon LeVay
      • Unprotected Texts: The Bibles Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire, Jennifer Knust
      • God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage, Bishop Gene Robinson
      • For the Bible Tells Me So (DVD)
      • Truth Wins Out: http://truthwinsout.org
      • Beyond Ex-Gay: http://www.beyondexgay.com/resources/articles
      • SoulForce: http://www.soulforce.org

      It should be noted that there is no reputable research showing that either “reparative therapy” or religious practices can effect long-term change in a person’s sexual orientation.

    • Tiffany Wright says:

      I’m saddened by the lack of understanding demonstrated in the above comment. There is growing support, even among conservative Americans, for gay marriage to be legal, as demonstrated by the recent Supreme Court decision on this matter. The scientific and mental health community as a whole has moved away from defining any specific sexual orientation or gender identity as “deviant” or as a medical condition to be fixed.

      LGBTQIA is not a behavior. The acronym demonstrates multiple ways by which people refer to themselves. Reactions to their identities like that demonstrated in the above comment contribute to the bullying and harassment of so many young people. With the pervasive culture of social media, one insult or incident of harassment can spiral into years of online abuse that ends in tragedy or other forms of physical distress for that young person.

      Young people, like our students, need affirmation and support to become successful, healthy (mentally and physically), and productive members of society. Sexually transmitted diseases are spread through all types of unsafe sexual acts, certainly not limited to people in same gender relationships.

      I fully support the commission. I’m so thrilled that our students have this kind of support here at Millersville University.

  4. Ryan-Brighid Mento says:

    This is such exciting news. It’s really wonderful to see that progress towards real inclusion and understanding is being made here at Millersville. Dr. Liffick, Dr. Anderson, Hiram, and others, please keep going down this path, and remember that your choices affect countless queer students (and faculty & staff) whose voices you may never hear – but whose appreciation is most definitely there.

  5. You are welcome on this campus and free to be who you are no matter what! 😀 As the programs director of the GSA on campus I hope to see you eventually and to meet you!

  6. Dr. Scott Richardson says:

    I am proud that the university is embracing love and care, and recognizing that gender and sexuality is fluid, multiple, and wonderfully diverse. This commission, and our other work in this area (from Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Women’s Studies, The Sexuality & Gender Institute, Social Equity, the Center for Health Education and Promotion, etc.) bolsters our visibility in the state as an open and affirming community–beyond many of our sister schools. In this historic moment, our students are ready (and they actually demand) a new culture. I am excited to build on their enthusiasm and show them that Millersville is listening.

  7. Ashley Hope says:

    This is truly amazing. As a transgender alumni, one who actively fought for LGBT rights vigorously while I attended, I am so happy and proud to see the fight continue. The new president of MU seems to be an amazing ally and MU is lucky to have him. Thank you so much to all those who worked to make this happen including faculty (Blaise and Scott especially), to the staff (Hiram and countless other supportive administrators), and the students in MU allies for making this happen.
    As for the professor who left a comment that LGBT people have a problem and are “tearing at the fabric of society” I think it’s shameful that you would say something do insulting about your students. Derivations in Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender expressions, are all a part of the natural world. To put down your students by insulting them like that seems to be counter to MU’s objectives of improving the lives of the students by arming them with knowledge and tools. That’s just bullying.

  8. Professor James Alex Clark says:

    I am happy to hear that MU is taking steps to help students handle being “different” in a healthy and positive way. I would be honored to assist in such a noble cause. As a gay man I understand the insecurity and fear that come along with transitioning from confusion and self-loathing to accepting one’s sexuality and living a healthy, balanced life with that acceptance. Therefore I am happy to support any initiative to make this transition easier for students at MU and men and women everywhere.

  9. Dr, Jennifer Shettel says:

    Welcome new MU students! Rest assured that Millersville University is a safe and inclusive campus for ALL people! Freshmen, be sure to read our campus common read, How Does it Feel to Be a Problem by Moustafa Bayoumi and get ready for a great deliberative dialogue set for Sept. 19 about how it feels to be different in our community. Please know that college is a wonderful place to expand your thinking on a wide variety of topics, including issues of diversity. Look for the Safe Zone signs on the doors and windows of profs who support the mission of this commission!

  10. Drs. Chris and Nazli Hardy says:

    Social unity (and strength) comes not through the division and exclusion of other peaceful persons from the pursuit of happiness. Some of the exclusionary and divisive societal concepts written here would hardly promote social unity unless one’s idea of social unity is social and religious homogeneity. We fully support the President’s Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity and hope all our students/ faculty/ staff will continue to feel safe and valued and happy at Millersville University

  11. Valarie Hetzler says:

    As a newly-grad, I have to say that I’m glad Millersville is taking it a step further. The fact that MU strives to make the college experience inclusive for the LGBTQIA, and in turn, everyone, makes me proud to have attended here and received my degree. This commission is much needed, since it is apparent that not everyone in the campus community is on the same page. My hope is that from here on out, the commission spreads faster than the misconceptions that continue to tear at the very fabric of our society, for lack of a better phrase. Being able to accept oneself is key in recognizing one’s true potential, but in order to do that, we must provide an environment that teaches people that having differences shouldn’t harbor separation among groups of people.

  12. Gwyn McVay says:

    Like Adam above, I am astounded that “LGBTQIA,” first of all, is now a “behavior” rather than a series of adjectives; and second, is a thing that “tears at the very fabric of our society.”

    As Adam points out, the A sometimes stands for Allies, but also stands for Asexuality. Asexual people are going around THIS VERY MINUTE doing what? Not having sex! Even I have sufficient grasp of biology to understand that it is awfully hard to spread diseases to anyone by not having sex with them. Good heavens, I have quite a long list myself of people with whom I have not had sex. Perhaps I have unwittingly damaged them by going nowhere near them. Woe, woe that I could be so callous and cruel to so many millions of people.

    I had the honor of receiving Safe Zone training from Dr. Liffick. Those who feel they are being bullied for any reason at all may come to my office; those who share it are in sympathy with the needs of the LGBTQIA community, so in that space, at least, anyone associated with MU can be free from the prejudicial attitudes and behaviors of others.

    Those who, conversely, find their knees jerking — e.g. in response to acronyms whose entire denotation they seem not to have puzzled out — may receive treatment for such spasms at Health Services next door, who also provide excellent and unbiased sexual health education, and can refer MU community members to counseling should it be necessary or desired. They are aware that intersexed “behavior” amounted to being born with a nonstandard biological phenotype. Also, they will be making flu shots available in the fall. After all, even the people who are not having sex (and thus who are, interestingly, in full adherence to the tenets of abstinence-only teachings) have roommates. The staff members at Health Services are good people and I am grateful for their presence.

  13. Tim Mahoney says:

    Millersville University must be a place where all members of the community have a voice and a space to express their opinions. In that sense, the above comments have their place in the overall discourse of the institution. Theories abound on how diverse populations with divergent interests learn to live together. The kind of learning that happens when we encounter those we do not agree with should be a part of the experience of learning at Millersville. However, when the freedom to hold and express ideas impinges on the rights of other community members to simply be themselves, the theoretical foundation of freedom wobbles a bit. In calling a segment of the our community “relationally broken” (in the words of the recommended Desert Stream ministry) the campus is made less safe for those who do not feel at all broken. That safety has been violated for too long, and the Presidents Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity is an important step toward making the campus a safe place for all of our students to learn in the context of compassion. I can’t think of an initiative more deserving of the unwavering support of all members of the Millersville community.

  14. Justin Sagurton says:

    As an alumnus of Millersville’s math program, I want to take this opportunity to reassure all current and incoming students that from my experiences, Millersville was never anything less than accepting of all students. I never felt during my time at Millersville that it was necessary to hide my sexual orientation. My professors, fraternity brothers, and peers always demonstrated the utmost respect to all persons.

    Dr. Shoemaker’s comments are not representative of the views of the VAST majority of professors at the university, or the math department. I can personally attest that within the math department, Dr. Moss, Dr. Blum and Dr. Sell and Dr. Catepillan were all open allies, and their doors were always open for me or any other student. They certainly weren’t the only allies within the department, just the ones I saw the most of.

  15. Dr. Christine Filippone says:

    I give my full support to this commission and all it seeks to accomplish. I had the good fortune to take SafeZone Training with Dr. Liffick and am grateful that this important endeavor is in compassionate and capable hands. I have engaged in intellectual activism in this area in recent years and would be happy to lend my support wherever it’s needed.

  16. Robin Brooks says:

    Thank you all for such kind and assuring words. Now that I have been on campus a week and have had the opportunity to meet all of my instructors and class mates, I have no reason to worry. I have, I think, the best instructors in the Social Work Department.

  17. David Kolesar says:

    I want to join the the chorus as a senior at Millersville by saying that, from my experience, Dr. Shoemaker’s comments do represent most of the faculty at this Univeristy. Clearly he is entitled to his own opinions and I grant him the full respect he is due as a professional and American citizen, but I have found most of the professors, faculty, and students here to disagree with his comments. In fact, most seem to be very accepting of the LGBTQIA community. From my personal experience, most of the campus does not seem to believe that identifying with this community is some type of moral shortcoming or a mental disorder equivocal to alcoholism.

    Professors, psychologists, and others at the school who are LGBTQIA friendly typically have a “safe zone” sign outside of their door. Students of alternative lifestyles are also openly welcome to a medley of clubs, such as Millersville Philosophical Society.

    Hopefully we as a academics can help turn a bright new page in American history.

  18. Dr. Jose Garcia says:

    I am so proud of those who have stepped up to speak against negativity wherever it may appear on campus or in the community. This new commission speaks highly of Millersville’s purpose to embrace and encourage diversity and provide an open and inclusive community for its students, faculty and staff. What an incredible moment in Millersville history!

  19. Dr. Lewis Shoemaker says:

    In the previous replies, it was interesting to see supposedly enlightened people heading down a path of darkness and encouraging young people to follow them down that same path when they should be lovingly encouraging them to seek help. It’s only a small step to add a P for pedophile and another B for bestiality to the LGB… alphabet soup. Should not the LGB… advocates be showing “tolerance” for their sexual attractions as well? Isaiah the prophet once said “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” This commission is definitely leading Millersville down a dark path that will encourage many good students to look elsewhere for an education.

  20. Dr. Blaise Liffick says:

    It is not, as my colleague suggests, a “small step” from being gay or bisexual to being a pedophile or a proponent of bestiality. While there are undoubtedly some people who would advocate for acceptance of such behaviors, the vast majority of LGBT people would in no way be supportive of such efforts. Indeed, most of the proponents of such behaviors are likely to be heterosexual! To suggest this “slippery slope” argument is a red herring logical fallacy without merit, and is insulting at best. Such scare tactics have no place in the reasonable discourse of complex issues. I would also suggest that such uninformed perspectives will certainly be more likely to “encourage many good students to look elsewhere for an education” by driving LGBT students, staff, and faculty away, and are the clearest possible evidence of the need for this commission. Being gay is not a disease, mental illness, or perversion, but is a part of the natural world, including humanity. To suggest otherwise is patently unfair to the millions of decent men and women who fall on the spectrum of human sexuality and gender identity. Rather than leading anyone to darkness, this commission strives to lead inexorably toward enlightenment.

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