In 2019, a Boston University task force released a report with recommendations to make the University a safer and more inclusive environment for LGBTQ faculty and staff. Almost three years later, many of these recommendations have yet to be implemented.
The report was released ten months before the University sent students at home after the first outbreak of COVID-19. Jean Morrison, the university’s rector and director of studies, said the move to a remote working setting had slowed down the working group, adding it was “frustrating” for the team.
“Hopefully returning to the in-person community will really speed up the things we’ve been doing remotely,” she said.
The working group gathered insights into the practices of peer organizations, discussed methods on how to expand current formal and informal activities on campus involving LGBTQ faculty and staff, and brainstormed ways to connect with Boston-based LGBTQ groups.
After eight months, they came up with a set of 18 recommendations in a 38-page document report.
However, nearly three years after the publication of the task force report, the majority of the recommendations on the list have still not been implemented. For example, BU has had no public discussions about renaming Silber Way – named after former BU Chairman John Silber, whose legacy is marked by his homophobia.
Nevertheless, BU’s progress in increasing inclusiveness is “on track”, according to Morrison.
“It’s not a question of ‘How long?’ said Morrison. “It’s a question of ‘What do we prioritize?'”
The report focused on visibility, communication and community, making employment practices more inclusive and making benefits fairer for LGBTQ faculty and staff.
Morrison said the first recommendation made by the task force was the creation of the LGBTQIA+ Center for Faculty and Staff or “The Q-Center,” located at 808 Commonwealth Avenue.
“The Q-Center…is now staffed and is a place of support and information that is, at this stage, primarily focused on faculty and staff and is an important place in terms of communicating with the community,” Morrison said.
Q-Center director Debbie Bazarsky said she was confident BU was on track to implement all of the report’s recommendations after the center was developed.
“The center helps achieve not just the task force’s goals, but the institution’s goals,” Bazarsky said. “I think when it comes to working on diversity, equity and inclusion, we can always do more. And I think that’s a good thing.
Bazarsky said some of the task force’s goals are embedded in the Q-Center or BU’s 2030 strategic plan — a set of priorities the university is focusing on throughout the decade.
“Everything on this list has been done or is in the works,” Bazarsky said.
Terence Keane, a professor of psychiatry and clinical psychology at the School of Medicine and a former member of the task force, said that before the task force was created, there had “never been anything specifically focused on the LGBTQ faculty” at BU.
“We consulted the literature. We surveyed other universities, peer institutions across the country. We met regularly and discussed what we thought would happen, what would help and what needed to be done,” Keane said.
Sara Mar, graduate student in School of Public Health and president of the LGBTQ student organization Queer Alliance at BU, said they were unaware of the task force’s report, but added that they believe there is still a lot of work to be done.
“There are indications that they are moving in a more positive direction towards LGBTQ inclusion and representation, but I don’t think that’s nearly where it should be,” Mar said.
Speaking on behalf of the Queer Alliance, Mar said BU should add more gender-neutral bathrooms to its Medical campus – one of the recommendations made by the task force has yet to be implemented.
“We have [gender neutral bathrooms] in building talent on SPH, but not in the other education buildings where many students have their classes,” said Mar.
Some students noted steps the University could take to be more inclusive of LGBTQ students at BU.
Maria Nino-Suastegui, second-year student at the College of Communications, said she personally did not see the University taking steps to be more inclusive of sexualities.
“When [BU’s] are trying to make the space more inclusive, you really need the support of the University to establish that inclusiveness,” said Nino-Suastegui. “Approval from them would be good.”
Grace Rodriguez, freshman at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she was unaware of the BU administration’s inclusion effortsadding that she thinks the University could do more to keep the conversation going, but it’s up to the students to raise awareness.
“I feel like [BU should offer] more support and sponsorship for more clubs or programs open to mental health resources for LGBTQI students. In the same way that some cultural clubs come together to form a community, [BU should] have the same for the LGBTQI community,” Rodriguez said.