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Raising Awareness of Queer Issues in the Academy

By Dr. Susan Hillock, on behalf of the Equity Committee, Trent University Faculty Association 

Trent University Faculty Association (TUFA)’s Equity Committee, in collaboration with staff, community partners, and student groups, organized and launched an awareness-raising campaign called “Queering the Academy (QTA)” in 2018. October was chosen as it is Queer History month and October 11th is National Coming Out Day.  The word “queer” was chosen as an umbrella term for the range and diversity of gender identity and sexual expression.

The campaign aims to warm up the campus climate, making it more welcoming and inclusive for all faculty, staff, and students, and eliminate cisgenderism/heterosexism, trans/homophobia, and discrimination. Additionally, the campaign celebrates the contributions that queer students, staff, and scholars make to the academy.

It calls on academic staff to:

  • improve knowledge about the Canadian and international history of queer oppression, harassment, and discrimination;
  • enhance personal and professional awareness of cisgender and heterosexist privilege/ social location/ intersectionality;
  • acknowledge and celebrate coming out stories; understanding of the importance of identity formation processes;
  • create safe places/offices/ washrooms/classrooms;
  • develop Queer/Straight Alliances, as well as, interdisciplinary queer alliances;
  • engage in allyship and social justice activism; and,
  • develop and support queer research, teaching, and scholarship.

In 2018, across 3 campuses, a series of events took place, including a roundtable panel discussion on Queerness and Disability/Deafness on Campus, campus wide information tables, queering your course design lectures, library/bookstore displays, movie showings, coming out and allyship events, social media participation and contests with prizes for participation, and knowledge mobilization on allyship and local queer resources/supports. A full list of the events can be seen here

As well, Trent queer scholars were celebrated as their research, books, articles, teaching exemplars, and scholarship were featured on the TUFA and Trent website, in the TUFA newsletter, and shared with all faculty members. Resources and reference lists were developed and distributed related to how academic colleagues and university staff could "Queer" their lectures, course materials, departments, offices, curriculum, content, and research. 

TUFA has been organizing Queering the Academy most years since its inception.                              

For more information related to queering the academy, event ideas, and further helpful resources and reference, see:

https://www.trentu.ca/colleges/queering-academy;

https://www.trentfaculty.ca/2018/10/queering-the-academy-trent-2018/             

A Checklist for Queering the Academy 

Academic staff associations can: 

  • Review their collective agreement to identify areas to bargain for greater representation and inclusion;
  • Declare academic staff association offices and meetings as welcoming spaces;
  • Have queer representation on the executive;
  • Have queer committees and/or caucuses; 
  • Regularly review modes of operation to see what barriers exist that limit queer participation; 
  • Support grievances to address issues/incidents of discrimination that occur on campus; 
  • Collaboratively work with stakeholders (i.e. other unions, student associations, human rights office, etc.) to analyze institutional policies such as budgets, hiring, tenure and promotion criteria, and the use of student evaluations, to improve campus climates for queers; 
  • Advocate for gender neutral bathrooms; and, 
  • Organize campaigns and hold and support events to celebrate queer contributions and PRIDE. 

Academic staff can:

  • Make their office/classroom/library a safe space;
  • Ensure language choices, handouts, power points, and documentation are inclusive;
  • Make queer content, books, pamphlets, posters, art, movies, and so on visible and/or available to diverse individuals and groups;
  • Include queer authors, readings, and content in courses;
  • Learn what resources are available in the community and on campus to support queer individuals;
  • Become an ally and get involved in social justice action to dismantle heterosexism, cisgenderism, and homophobia.