To the editor:

Regarding “Is VCU LGBT Friendly?” in the Sept. 28 edition of the Commonwealth Times, thank you for reporting about VCU’s “Campus Pride Index” results and the university’s ongoing efforts to improve the climate for LGBTQ members of our community.

VCU joined this important national effort in 2011. By becoming part of the Campus Pride Index and voluntarily responding to the questions that help to shape the index, Equality VCU and university leaders have worked together to assess our strengths and focus on opportunities for improving support for all members of the VCU community.

As the article noted, VCU received a three out of five stars in the 2012 Campus Pride Index. The overall ranking improved to 3.5 in the 2015 index, which was submitted in March. VCU improved in six of eight categories, with higher rankings in policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, student life, academic life, housing and residential life and recruiting and retention. With support from Equality VCU, an advocacy and advisory body, we have launched a 17-point action plan to strengthen our rankings in all of the categories.

While important, the numbers don’t fully tell the story of the work being done here to create a more welcoming, supportive and inclusive community. 

In August, Paris Prince was appointed as Special Assistant for LGBTQ Initiatives in the Division for Inclusive Excellence. Paris is leading efforts to coordinate educational opportunities and strategic initiatives for the LGBTQ community, their allies and the general campus community. His work will increase awareness about the lives of LGBTQ individuals and challenge bias and intolerance.

The Division also offers The Inclusive Excellence Diversity Resource Library, providing resource materials to stimulate thinking, raise awareness and enhance understanding of diversity and inclusion. For library access and other information, call (804) 828-8947 or send an email to inclusive@vcu.edu.

And the Division holds training sessions for administrative units, faculty, staff and members of the community to promote awareness of LGBTQ issues that are unique in a university setting.  And we encourage everyone to consider participating in VCU’s campus-level celebrations of LGBT history month in October to broaden their understanding of the gay rights and related civil rights movements.

The 10th annual Burnside Watstein Award ceremony to recognize individuals who enrich the sense of community at VCU and make a significant difference in the lives of LGBTQ faculty, staff and students will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 in the Virginia Rooms of the University Student Commons at 3 p.m. If you know of a VCU student, faculty, staff, or community member who you would like to nominate for this award please submit a nomination form at: go.vcu.edu/lgbtaward.

The VCU community is also involved in initiatives such as ongoing Safe Zone Training coordinated by University Counseling Services and the annual Lavender graduations.

More information is forthcoming about upcoming events and activities such as designating VCU single-stall restrooms as genderless and accessible.  Information will be shared by email and posted on the Inclusive Excellence and other campus websites, in the Telegram, and in university articles.

We realize the complexity of people’s lives and experiences, and our need to approach diversity and inclusion with an eye on the intersectionality of differences. 

Through the aforementioned efforts and others, we are committed to a campus community where everyone — regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, political affiliation, veterans’ status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, or disability — can succeed and be their very best. And that is what inclusive excellence is all about!

Sincerely,

Wanda S. Mitchell

Vice President for

Inclusive Excellence

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