Updated: Sept. 28, 2020 at 12:02 p.m.
Leaders of the Student Association’s newly established LGBTQ+ caucus said they will work with housing officials on gender rooming assignments and create spaces to listen to concerns of the LGBTQ community.
SA Sen. Sam Packer, CCAS-U and the chair of the caucus, said the group can serve to especially support an LGBTQ community that has been viewed as a “relatively” small community. She said the members will prioritize changing the University’s housing policy so students’ assignments are based on gender instead of sex, collaborating with other LGBTQ organizations and forming a simplified name change process for students on all GW documents.
Four SA senators, two SA vice presidents and SA Chief of Staff Zachary Nosanchuk are currently serving on the caucus.
“It was past time for the student leadership and the administrators to take a more direct focus on our issues, especially for the gender diverse community,” Packer said. “That’s trans people, nonbinary people, gender queer people, anyone who doesn’t identify within or essentially as a cisgender person.”
She said the caucus will meet at least once a month to discuss policy goals. Packer added that she reached out to LGBTQ organizations like Transgender and Non-Binary Students of GW, Allied in Pride and Delta Lamba Phi, a queer fraternity on campus, before drafting the caucus legislation to invite them to apply for a member position in the caucus.
She said the caucus is open to all members and allies of the community who are “passionate” about LGBTQ issues. Packer said a priority for the caucus is working with IT administrators to simplify the “complicated” process to change a student’s legal name to their preferred name on all GW databases.
“That needs to be standardized and made more simple because people should be able to be called by the names that they’re comfortable with,” Packer said.
Packer said she wants to expand access to LGBTQ resources like “community spaces” and “health resources” for graduate students because “very few” graduate students participate in student organizations. She said she will reach out to graduate students through the SA graduate newsletter.
“I want to make sure that all of the resources we have as a community are available to all students within our community, be that undergraduate students, graduate students, part-time, online – even when not in the pandemic – because we are an inclusive community, and I want to make sure that everyone has the access to resources that they need,” Packer said.
She added that the caucus will advocate for adding at least one gender-inclusive bathroom in all buildings on campus so students who aren’t comfortable with using an sex-assigned bathroom don’t have to walk multiple blocks in between classes. Following student advocacy, a gender-inclusive bathroom was built in the Marvin Center in the spring.
Drew Amstutz, the SA’s vice president for undergraduate student policy and a member of the caucus, said he will focus on outreach to LGBTQ student organizations and intends to create a mentorship program between LGBTQ students and professionals across the University’s schools.
He said many student “positions of power” across campus aren’t representative of transgender students so a mentorship program can help students – specifically transgender students – find more opportunities to be in leadership positions on campus. Amstutz said upperclassmen and student leaders part of the LGBTQ community would act as mentors.
“I want to make sure that we’re bringing those people into the room and helping empower them to strive for those leadership positions, whether in the Student Association or in their student organization,” Amstutz said.
SA Sen. Courtney Mason, CCAS-G and a member of the caucus, said she will continue to advocate for previous legislation passed in the SA, like the creation of gender-inclusive bathrooms, when speaking with officials on LGBTQ issues. She said she will speak with administrators like Cissy Petty, the dean of students experience and vice president of student affairs, to “improve” campus resources for all students, specifically LGBTQ individuals.
“I’m hoping that LGBTQ students do feel safe and welcomed on campus and that they can be themselves,” Mason said. “And I don’t think there’s necessarily specific issues, but I think that there are areas for improvement.”
Anna Weber, the SA’s vice president for campus operations and a member of the caucus, said the caucus provides a “designated” space for students to talk about LGBTQ issues, especially considering the “robust” LGBTQ population at GW. She said she will advocate to bring back an event similar to the LGBTQIA+ Health and Advocacy Conference, which featured a town hall and presentations from national figures in the spring, through her position as a caucus member.
“I would like to try and do something with that again,” Weber said. “Otherwise, I’d like to just provide input to the senate members, and it’s just a really good place to have discussion about these issues.”
This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the number of people serving on the caucus. It has been corrected. We regret this error.