Discussion on making LGBTQ+ inclusive college classrooms

Timothy R. Bussey and Hailey B. Greenhalgh presents "inclusivity in the college classroom" at the Oak 438, Match 23rd. This presentation seek to engage political science faculty and graduate students about the state of the discipline in regards to LGBT inclusion. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

In today’s current political climate, the importance of creating a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ identifying students has become an increasingly discussed topic both on and off the college campus. PhD student Hailey Greenhalgh and PhD candidate Timothy Bussey led an informative presentation on how members of the UConn Political Science faculty can work towards creating a more inclusive environment for their LGBTQ+ students.

Bussey and Greenhalgh spent the first portion of their presentation discussing the findings of a 2010 survey regarding LGBTQ+ students and faculty in the political science discipline. In one of the graphs presented, they noticed that a startling amount of those in political science did not believe that LGBTQ+ politics should be discussed in an undergraduate classroom.

“What it shows us is that roughly 30 percent of people in our discipline say that for one reason or another, LGBT politics and course work should not happen at the undergraduate level, which I think is a troubling number in many ways,” Bussey stated. Although a similar percentage thought that it was important to discuss LGBTQ+ politics in the classroom, the high percentage of those who choose not to discuss these topics exemplifies how far the political science discipline can go in terms of inclusivity.

Bussey and Greenhalgh provided professors and faculty in attendance with some helpful ideas of how they can make their classroom space more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students, introducing those in attendance to resources they can utilize to make their students feel more comfortable. One of these resources, Husky Safe Zone training, can be found in the Rainbow Center. Participants leave the training program with a Husky Safe Zone sticker that Greenhalgh encouraged faculty members put in their offices for students to see.

“Students will notice the smallest of things, so even if you have that little Husky Safe Zone training sticker, they’ll notice it,” Greenhalgh said. “Even if it’s in the corner of your office, you’d be surprised that they actively look for something that shows you’re an ally.”

Another method mentioned by Greenhalgh and Bussey to ensure that LGBTQ+ students feel more comfortable is for professors to list their pronouns on their syllabus or email, an action that has become increasingly common for UConn faculty to do over the past few years. Bussey and Greenhalgh stated that this small act could be an indicator to LGBTQ+ students that their professor is an ally, which would in turn create a more inclusive environment.

Greenhalgh and Bussey also suggested providing students with contemporary examples of LGBTQ+ politics in their courses in order to ensure that students were being informed about LGBTQ+ politics in a way that was relevant to their subfield of political science. By doing this, the political science faculty can create an open dialog that provides students the opportunity to discuss LGBTQ+ issues.

Political Science Professor Cyrus Zirakzadeh believes that discussing relevant LGBTQ+ research and politics is important for creating an inclusive environment, stating “The section about relevant research was very important to me because I’m organizing an inclusion and diversity workshops for the college of liberal arts and sciences and the question of relevant research for promotion and tenure is really important.”

Following the presentation, there was a short question and answer session during which Bussey and Greenhalgh answered specific questions from the political science faculty.

“Unless we have role models at the level of tenured professors, we aren’t going to give very good examples or encouragement to younger scholars,” Professor Zirakzadeh said.


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.