By: LATORIA LAND
If anyone were to take a look around an Indiana University campus, the large amount of diversity within the student body and faculty would be very apparent. The IU system holds a reputation for accepting people regardless of race, religion, age, background or sexual orientation. This open arms approach has been noticed by many and recently earned IU Bloomington recognition as one of the top 50 LGBT-friendly colleges and universities of 2014 by Campus Life.
The accolade highlights the campus’ commitment to a supportive atmosphere for the LGBT community. Many of the students and faculty members at IU South Bend feel that their campus provides a supportive environment as well.
The incorporation of the Campus Ally Network (C.A.N.), the support of the women and gender studies department and programs that promote awareness all help to foster an LGBT-friendly environment. Kevin Gillen, speech communications professor at IU South Bend and co-leader of C.A.N., has witnessed an overwhelming increase of support for the LGBT community over the 12 years that he has been teaching on campus. Gillen feels that this is due to “more exposure for the women and gender studies program, and other classes and courses that are more current with variable topics.” These courses can aid in promoting awareness and acceptance of diversity.
According to Gillen, the C.A.N. organization strives to educate and “create a safe haven for anybody questioning anything to do with their sexuality.” They offer educational training sessions both on campus and via Oncourse during the fall and spring. The organization sometimes partners with the women and gender studies department and other local programs such as the GLBT Resource Center of Michiana to make a positive impact in the area.
“IU South Bend is friendlier than other campuses that I visited in the past,” said IUSB senior Russell Williams.
Williams believes groups like C.A.N. help to bolster an already accepting campus attitude, although he feels the university still holds room for improvement when raising the awareness of the community.
“A lot of people may not know what LGBT means in specific terms or may have a lot of misconceptions,” Williams said.
“Anything in the community would help,” explained Gillen, including “more exposure and transparency.”
He encourages anyone with questions to look up the C.A.N. organization on the IU homepage or to contact the women and gender studies program directly. Gillen feels positively about the LGBT relationship on campus and advises the best way to create a friendly environment is for the community “not to see the LGBT people as different, but just see them as people.”