The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The bumpy road to progress

In the two and a half years since the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center was created, the campus has become more accepting of LGBT community members, according to Charles Milne, interim coordinator, and Stayner Landward, dean of students.

But they also agree the U still has work to do.

While some students say they feel welcomed, others still say they feel threatened, Milne said.

Crime statistics agree. Over the last 11 years, 33 incidents of a sexually oriented hate crime were reported to campus police. However, none have been reported this year.

Police are uncertain of what this statistic means because the “info we have is what’s reported to us,” said University Police Detective Mike McPharlin. There may be more hate crimes on campus that go unreported.

University Police Chief Scott Folsom said he believes the last two years’ efforts to increase homosexual awareness and understanding may encourage more victims to report incidents in the future.

“When public awareness happens, the number of reports that come to the police typically increases because the stigma of reporting goes away,” he said.

The resource center has been working to increase public awareness and help students feel safe on campus, so reports of incidents might increase in the next 11 years. However, the center’s educational outreach programs could account for this year’s decrease in reported incidents, and therefore the trend might continue.

The bottom line is that this statistic “could be an anomaly [or] could be a pattern,” indicative of greater acceptance on campus, McPharlin said. The police simply don’t have enough data to make conclusions yet.

Still, other authorities said they believe the campus has improved in the last two years and the center is the reason why.

“Increased visibility allows for an increase in understanding [which] creates an increase [in] acceptance,” said Landward.

Milne agreed.

The first year the center was created, Milne said he received several hate e-mails. During the first university Pride Week, of the 50 posters hung around campus, 30 were ripped and torn down. This year, virtually no posters have been damaged, save a few in the residence halls.

“People are starting to see us as a part of the campus,” he said.

Kay Harward, associate vice president for student affairs, said he believed the center is a vital part of creating understanding on campus.

The center has a social branch, an educational branch and an outreach branch.

As part of educational and outreach programming, the center does presentations in classrooms, holds LGBT awareness events, such as Pride Week, and conducts sensitivity trainings, Milne said. He also said he believed the most important training takes place in the residence halls.

“If you don’t feel safe coming home, where do you go?” he asked.

Milne said these programs help the campus’ LGBT community to “just be visible so everyone can see we’re normal people.”

However, a range of reactions to the LGBT community exists.

“I understand they may not be physically attracted to the opposite gender, but what if everyone did it? There might be some problems there,” said Mark Davis, a first-year student.

On Monday, Landward spoke with a student who didn’t want U resources funding organizations like the resource center or the Lesbian Gay Student Union.

Currently, the Associated Students of the University of Utah sponsors the LGSU, while the LGBT Center receives staff funding from the office of the associate vice president for diversity.

Landward met with the student and said they had a very intelligent conversation. Landward said he believed such dialogue would lead to more understanding on campus.

In addition to providing dialogue, Landward said the U’s administration tries to support the LGBT community in other ways.

If a hate-related act is reported, the administration responds immediately to amend the situation, Landward said.

He said Barbara Snyder is another example of the administration’s LGBT support.

Snyder, student affairs vice president, purchased a $650 table at the Pride Week gala dinner and silent auction for Thursday. She has invited five administrators and five students to attend with her.

However, Landward also conceded that the administration could be doing more. He said he wants to allocate more space for the resource center so the students would have a lounge and a library and the coordinator would have an office to meet with students in private.

Milne said he and Landward are working together to create a system for tracking hate crimes on campus. There is no official record besides what is reported to the police.

Tracking the crimes is difficult because the people commit them “under the cloak of darkness and don’t have the courage to speak openly,” Landward said.

Some homosexual students agree with Milne and Landward that more needs to be done.

“It’s still tough to go to public school in Utah and be homosexual,” said Thomas Nelson.

Brandon Hernandez said he thought LGBT students are so repressed they shut down socially.

“Internally, we are so mean to each other. It’s not everyone, but people are [unfriendly] right off the bat,” he said.

Landward said he hopes collaboration will fix these problems.

“My belief is that when gay and straight administration and students work together, we’re more likely to build a community of understanding than if we work separately,” Landward said.

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