New State of LGBTQIA+ Affairs at UT Austin report provides recommendations to increase inclusivity on campus

Joelle DiPaolo, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 8, 2022 flipbook.

Student leaders released an updated State of LGBTQIA+ Affairs report Monday with 48 recommendations to increase inclusivity on campus, 15 years after the first report of its kind was released for the University.

Adrienne Hunter, co-director of the Queer & Trans Student Alliance, said the report, a re-evaluation of the Queer Student Alliance’s 2006 state of affairs report, can be a resource to help students to advocate for action. The report recommends the University departmentalize the women and gender studies program, add gender-inclusive bathrooms and divest funding from the UT Police Department, among other things. 

Hunter said although some actions were fulfilled because of the original report, such as the creation of an LGBTQIA+ studies minor, other recommendations, such as the creation of gender-inclusive housing, have not been entirely fulfilled.

“Our approach for creating recommendations was (to center the) folks most impacted by the University’s harmful policies,” said Hunter, a radio-television-film, anthropology and women and gender studies senior. “If the campus is more inclusive for those folks, … it will be more inclusive for all folks.”  

The report contains data from a 100-question Institutional Review Board-approved survey that was shared on social media and over email. Of the 2,000 student respondents, about 64% self-identified as queer. 

Hunter said the report intended to address inclusivity as a whole using a queer perspective. Graduate student Ashleigh Aviles said students with intersectional identities face more discomfort on campus. Indeed, the survey showed that LGBTQIA+ students of color were 1.45 times as likely to note discomfort on campus than other LGBTQIA+ students.

Suseth Muñoz, education and government senior, said the data backed up queer students’ thoughts about certain aspects of campus life, such as their perception of police on campus. For reference, straight, cisgender students rated their comfort with the police presence at 6.47 out of 10, whereas transgender students averaged a comfort level of 2.52 out of 10.

“Though we have these really strong beliefs, now we have data (that spells out) what is needed to make a more inclusive campus,” Muñoz said. 

The committee looked at issues in four categories of student-centered spaces — student resources, academics, faculty and staff, and policing. Recommendations include hiring more LGBTQIA+ staff in University Health Services and adding a gender X option for nonbinary students in the University’s Gender Identification System.

On Feb. 22, the committee presented six of its recommendations to UT President Jay Hartzell. The recommendations include creating a gender-inclusive locker room in Gregory Gymnasium and considering allyship training in the tenure process. Hunter said they chose recommendations that were directly under the President’s sphere of influence.

Aviles said while it is everyone’s responsibility to make UT inclusive, it is up to the administration to enact certain changes. 

“As students, we cannot build a gender-inclusive restroom,” Aviles said. “There’s a huge space (in which) we really need organized action from the administration.” 

Hunter said that while some of their goals were not likely to happen immediately, such as abolishing Greek life on campus, they will set an important precedent. Straight, cisgender students rated their comfort with Greek life’s presence on campus at 4.66 out of 10, while LGBTQIA+ students rated their comfort at 2.92 and transgender students rated their comfort at 1.93. 

“Just because something is said to be unrealistic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak out about it,” Hunter said. “If we say we’re gonna make recommendations to make the campus as inclusive as possible, that includes ones that people (will) say are unrealistic.”