Vision Survey Finds Campus Generally Positive
Survey respondents offer suggestions on promoting equity
on basis of sexual orientation
U of G's learning environment for lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people is generally positive,
according to a survey conducted by the University's Human
Rights and Equity Office (HREO).
The survey polled 3,000 faculty, staff and students. Of
the 3,000, eight per cent self-identified as LGBT. Of those
LGBT respondents, almost 90 per cent indicated they had
not had to interrupt their academic activities, nor had
they ever been advantaged or disadvantaged in class or at
work, because of their sexual orientation.
The survey was part of Project Vision: Toward a Campus
Free From Harassment and Unfair Treatment Based on Sexual
Orientation, initially launched in 1997 by the HREO. Project
Vision's goals were to identify both the challenges and
positive developments affecting the participation of LGBT
people on campus, and to develop strategies that create
a work, study and research environment that fosters mutual
trust and respect. Detailed results of the survey are to
be released to the campus community on the HREO Web site
early in January.
Guided by an advisory group of students, staff, faculty
and administration representing a broad cross-section of
the University, the project randomly surveyed campus community
members in March 1998.
The aim was to determine, among other things, the overall
climate for LGBT people on campus, respondents' beliefs
and attitudes toward LGBT people, and respondents' awareness
of what U of G has done or could do to promote equity on
the basis of sexual orientation.
"We are pleased to provide this report because we
believe it will serve to further discussion about issues
facing LGBT people in the campus community," says HREO
director Patrick Case. "At U of G, we take pride in
being a caring community, one that values diversity."
The study garnered a response rate of more than 25 per
cent. In addition to the survey, the research involved focus
groups between March and April 1998, which were followed
up with individual interviews a year later, from January
to March 1999.
More than three-quarters of LGBT respondents, when asked
if they had encountered any obstacles in accessing campus
services, said they had had positive experiences with U
of G service providers. But although more than 90 per cent
had never experienced employment barriers at U of G because
of their sexual orientation, 44 per cent felt that being
openly LGBT might negatively affect a person's chances of
career advancement at the University.
The survey also found that:
- Of the LGBT people who had been verbally harassed on
campus, about one-third had not reported it. They also
felt uncomfortable expressing their sexuality publicly
and perceived it might be difficult to find on-campus
housing that would allow them to be open about their sexual
- Over half of the heterosexual respondents said they
would be uncomfortable if they learned that their roommate
or housemate was LGBT or about viewing public displays
of affection by same-sex couples.
When asked what the University could do to make the environment
more positive toward LGBT individuals, a number of ideas
were generated by respondents, including:
- Offering more campus workshops and lectures about sexual
and gender issues. The survey showed that the level of
awareness among heterosexual respondents and the acceptance
of LGBT people and issues were significantly higher for
those who had attended such workshops and lectures.
- Providing personal and academic counsellors trained
to deal with sexual and gender identity issues.
- Having LGBT people represented at all levels of the
University and creating a safe and equitable environment
where they can be open about their identity would be important
- Encouraging applications to external funding agencies
and recog- nition both internally and externally for research
on sexual orientation issues would increase incentives
to conduct this type of work.
As for the next steps, Case said the survey results will
be extremely helpful not only in addressing the needs of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people on campus,
but also in addressing the needs of all members of the University
community when it comes to sexual orientation issues.
"Any gains made as a result of attention to the issues
addressed in this report are gains made by the entire community,"
he says. "An important next step will be to ensure
that what we have learned through the survey will permeate
our work across all areas. To that end, in the coming months,
it will be important for all members of the University community
to read the report and consider any possible implications
for their areas of responsibility."
Case adds that the survey "tells us how far we've
come and provides a foundation on which to build. In fact,
the process itself has already resulted in positive developments
across the institution because it has raised awareness of
this particular human rights and equity issue."