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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

November 5, 2004

Diversity forum

Fear the silence

by Anne Krapfl

Even people who truly support the concept of diversity frequently don't have the tools -- communication tools, interpersonal tools -- to act supportively. This was one conclusion presented by a student-faculty panel of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (and allied) individuals Nov. 2 in the Memorial Union. The event was the first President's Forum on Diversity of the year. The conversation focused on issues faced daily by ISU's LGBT community.

"The silence on this campus is what we should be afraid of," said Victor Raymond, a doctoral student in sociology. "This campus has a void, an absence, when it comes to talking about LGBT issues."

Unfortunately, he added, what fills the void too often is bigoted remarks and interactions with LGBT individuals that focus on conformity, not diversity.

Sociology faculty member Sharon Bird talked about "trying to communicate across the great divide," specifically between LGBT and straight people.

"We have no tool kits to deal with it," she noted.

Some see no need for a tool kit, Bird added.

"Many seem to think that 'what you do' is OK with me as long as I don't have to change anything about me," she said. "They don't realize that change is needed."

The five panel members, two undergraduates, two graduate students and a faculty member, briefly shared their experiences and thoughts about working or studying at Iowa State as an out member of the LGBT community.

Sophomore Justin Hope, who attends Iowa State on a scholarship named for former University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard and who is the only male member of the Cyclone drill team, said he is subjected to comments such as "I didn't know they let boys be 'flagettes'."

While generally he feels supported at Iowa State, Hope said it bothers him that, with ISU's curriculum requirements, it's possible to graduate without taking a class that addresses LGBT issues.

About 120 people -- students, staff, faculty and administrators -- participated in the forum.

"The LGBT community is an important community to Iowa State University," said president Gregory Geoffroy. "That's because the individual members of that community are important."

"We care about their success, as students, faculty and staff," he said.

Geoffroy also noted that the "climate for diversity is not as strong as we'd like it to be," but said he's hopeful that the recently completed campus climate survey can be a stepping stone for improving that climate.


"The silence on this campus is what we should be afraid of."

Victor Raymond