by John Riley
November 3, 2011
Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, is rolling out a campaign to make the environment at its three campuses more inclusive of LGBT students, faculty and staff by adopting policies, making public displays of support and putting in place a college-wide infrastructure to help LGBT students who may be struggling with their identity or personal problems.
On Monday, Oct. 24, the college’s board of trustees voted to approve a new anti-bullying statement that had been pushed by MC Pride, the college’s pro-LGBT group of faculty and staff, in response to national events highlighting discrimination and bullying against LGBT people, sometimes resulting in suicide.
Deborah Stearns, a professor of psychology and an ”ally advisor” to The People’s Alliance, the LGBT club on the college’s Rockville campus, said that while the college had not experienced specific incidents of LGBTQ harassment or bullying, MC Pride wanted to be proactive and send a message of acceptance to its LGBT students and staff.
”Even if they’ve struggled at home or struggled in their community, they can come here and find a supportive environment,” she said.
Stearns also said that the college is working on expanding the ”safe zone” training for staff that educates them on how to respond to possible scenarios facing LGBT students.
Jason Rivera, Director of the Writing, Reading and Language Center at the Takoma-Silver Spring campus, said the college’s efforts to reach out to LGBT students come at a time that is ”just right.”
”I think the college is at a point in time where these things need to be institutionally different,” he said. He added that while the college’s president, DeRionne Pollard, is an out lesbian and has been very supportive, the push to make all of Montgomery College’s campuses LGBT-inclusive has really been driven from the bottom-up by students, faculty and staff.
Stearns said that the college has become involved with the national ”It Gets Better” project, and has produced a video featuring three current students, as well as members of the college’s faculty, staff, and Pollard, sharing their experiences coming out.
Rivera said that the involvement of the three students in the video projects was especially meaningful to him.
”Because we are a community college, and a lot of students are here on a part-time basis, it’s harder to get students invested in long-term projects,” he said. ”The fact that these students have been willing to get involved and dedicate their time shows how much they believe in this.”