By Julie Shon
The City University of New York (CUNY) and its colleges are committed to creating and supporting an inclusive and empowering environment for all of its members. The CUNY LGBTQI+ Council, formed in March 2019, is an active committee that compiles related resources and policies, hosts events, and connects students with one another. Theyconvene on a monthly basis to discuss existing and emerging topics and how they can continue to extend support to CUNY’s LGBTQI+ community. The LGBTQI+ Hub is a site in which all of this information–including events, resources, forms and contact information–can be found.
Chelsea Alterman, the Assistant Director of Student Development at Macaulay Honors College, provided insight on both the long-standing and new initiatives the committee has been pushing out. She also serves as the Chair of the Outreach & Online Presence Subcommittee, one of four subcommittees in the council, and is instrumental to overseeing the content of the Hub. “Our mission is to ensure the visibility and inclusion of the entire spectrum of LGBTQI+ students, faculty, and staff,” Alterman said, “Our goal is to maintain the accuracy of information on the Hub and expand its reach, making improvements and additions as they arise.”
There are dedicated student-facing faculty members on the Council who represent each college. Alterman said, “Wehave representation from the coordinators of the LGBTQI+ spaces that exist at CUNY, student life staff that advise LGBTQI+ student organizations, and faculty that interact with students every day. When we meet, we bring in all of these touch points and student experiences into our conversations.” Students’ voices are central to their efforts, and they are encouraged to share their perspectives and experiences with their campus representative.
Students may also currently apply to the CUNY LGBTQI+ Student Leadership Program and CUNY LGBTQI+ Advocacy Academy Program to get more directly involved in leadership roles.
Another important facet of the Council is to educate staff and faculty members on creating inclusive environments in their classrooms and beyond. They organize Safe Zone Trainings to inform staff “through terminology, self-examination, discussion, and best practices.” Alterman said of her own experience as a Council representative, “Each LGBTQI+ Council member is a champion for LGBTQI+ rights at our respective campuses. For example, at Macaulay Honors College, I communicated with our Senior Associate Dean and Chief Academic Officer about the importance of sharing and respecting preferred pronouns in our Macaulay classes.”
Trans and gender-nonconforming students can update their preferred name and gender on CUNYfirst, with forms found on this page. Anyone in need of assistance in this process is encouraged to contact their school’s Council representative. “In addition, any trans student who has experienced instances of feeling marginalized, disenfranchised, and/ordisrespected at CUNY because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation should feel empowered to contact theChief Diversity Officer at their campus to discuss their concerns,” Alterman advises.
The CUNY LGBTQI+ Council is organizing a virtual event on April 20th, from 1-2pm, to announce the launch of the Hub. Those interested may register for this free event here, during which they can learn about the various features of the site, and how to navigate it. Alterman also suggests the 2021 LGBTQ+ Guide of Services and Resources from the Office of NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, found here, for more resources for LGBTQI+ students and allies.