Here’s the picture at Texas A&M University: employees can be fired just for their sexual orientation or gender identity, safe sex workshops are secretly infiltrated and then smeared as “pornographic,” and both student senators and state Representatives have been trying to defund the campus’s LGBT resource center by requiring that an equal budget be set aside for an absurdly unnecessary “traditional values center.” The situation is so bad that the Texas Transgender Non-Discrimination Summit abandoned its planned conference at the university this August in favor a safer venue.
A student, Garrett Nichols, is now petitioning A&M’s administrators to right one of those wrongs: adding non-discrimination protections that will protect LGBT employees. He points out that A&M is “the only Tier 1 Institution in the state of Texas that does not offer these protections. (Both the University of Texas and University of Houston include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and UT also includes gender identity.)”
All these efforts to erase the LGBT community from campus and derail services that might support them demand a conversation about why the services are there in the first place. Unlike the mythical services a campus “traditional values center” would hypothetically offer, pro-LGBT policies and resources have significant impacts on the academic success, productivity, recruitment, and retention of students, faculty, and employees. A comprehensive survey of the climate for LGBT people at universities released last year showed that not only do LGBT people experience significant amounts of harassment in higher education, but that those experiences greatly influenced individuals to consider leaving their campuses. Nichols’ effort to protect LGBT employees is in the best interest of the university.
A&M’s conservative groups and unresponsive administrators have sent a clear message that they have no desire to recruit or retain LGBT students or employees. Unlike most universities that vie for the best and brightest, A&M continues to demonstrate that discrimination is its highest priority.