‘Support and programming for all the intersectionality of identities’
The University of Southern California offers its students an extensive list of LGBT “educational activities” meant to instruct participants in various aspects of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
Comprised of 18 different undertakings, the activities include a “Trans Situation Activity,” a “Gay and Lesbian Trivia,” and an “Allies Role Play” game.
Each activity is intended to educate students on issues surrounding LGBT culture and life. In the “Trans Situation Activity,” students are asked to rate, by their judgment, how safe transgender students are in a wide variety of circumstances. The 16 hypothetical situations in the activity rage from “at the campus gym” to “at a family event” to “visiting their physician.” Participants are then urged to discuss how transgender individuals, along with racial minorities, might react in each circumstance.
The “Icebreaker: Gay and Lesbian Trivia” game has facilitators ask students a series of multiple choice questions about LGBT history and community. Each time participants answer a question correctly, they are instructed to take a step forward. Questions, of which there are seven, include “When is National Coming Out Day?,” “In the Nazi concentration camps of WW II, homosexuals wore which symbol to identify them?” and “What Greek letter symbolizes gay and lesbian activism?”
After the activity, students who took the most steps forward are given a round of applause and choice of prizes. Participants are then asked another series of questions designed to generate discussion, such as “For those of you who didn’t get to take very many steps, how did you feel during the exercise?” and “What was the most rewarding aspect of this activity?”
The College Fix reached out to the university’s LGBT Resource Center for more information on the activities, including how popular they are and whether or not the resource center felt like the activities had changed the campus climate at all. Multiple emails and phone calls went unanswered; numerous messages sent to the resource center via Facebook were marked as “read” but no response was ever given.
The Fix also reached out to the University of Southern California’s media relations team. Campus spokeswoman Jenesse Miller directed The Fix to the LGBT Resource Center’s mission statement, which stipulates that the department “provides support, education, advocacy, and connection to community for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Southern California.”
“We are dedicated to providing support and programming for all the intersectionality of identities within the University’s diverse community,” the mission statement reads.
Asked about how popular the activities were, Miller said she did not have that data. “Many of [the activities] are adapted from widely available online resources.”
Among the other educational activities offered by the resource center is the “Allies Role Play” exercise, an activity in which students act out different hypothetical parts of LGBT life in various situations.
Among the three role-playing circumstances proposed by the game, one situation details a female student having trouble with her lesbian roommate; the student does not want to live with a gay woman and wants to be moved to a new housing unit. Another situation has participants role-playing a gay male student who says goodbye to a well-liked campus faculty member; the student’s parents cut off his tuition payments after they discover he is gay, forcing the student to drop out.
It is unclear what students are supposed to draw from the role-playing exercise. No instructions are given to participants other than the listed scenarios.
The University of Southern California advertises its status as an LGBT-friendly university. Several years ago the school published a 14-page booklet encouraging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to attend the school. In that booklet the school’s vice president for student affairs touts “the commitment of the university to create a positive environment for LGBT students, staff and faculty.”
The university offers several other programs and activities designed for LGBT students. Among these is the LGBT Speaker’s Bureau, a program that “consists of LGBT and Ally students that are willing and able to attend a program to facilitate a LGBT activity or simply speak about their personal experiences being a member of the LGBT Community.”
The school also provides an LGBT Peer Mentoring Program, a service allowing students to “work with a caring dynamic peer mentor on their own personal, social, academic, career and lifestyle goals.”
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