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College spotlights LGBTQ+ community

By Max Romprey 

Chemeketa is committed to being a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.

For the 2016-2017 school year, the college’s administration has declared a focus on issues related to supporting Chemeketa’s LGBTQ+ population.

Linda Herrera, Chemeketa’s diversity and equity officer, said that a primary component of the college’s focus on the LGBTQ+ population is the Chemeketa Reads program, which encourages students to read a specific book related to a selected topic. Herrera said that the goal in promoting this book, Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt, is to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community at Chemeketa.

Herrera said that she is focused on supporting distribution and discussion of the book, as well as organizing talks from guest speakers on the subject.

In addition to the Chemeketa Reads program, the college also organizes Safe Zone training sessions. When you see a piece of paper with a pink triangle inside a green circle posted near an office, this means that the relevant faculty member has taken a Safe Zone training course in the interest of learning sensitivity to issues of gender and sexual orientation.

Herrera said, in regards to faculty taking these courses, that “they’re not required, they’re optional,” but that there has been a “really good turnout.”

Sierra Smith, the president of the college’s Triangle Club, a student group which advocates for equality for the LGBTQ+ community, said that a common problem for members of the LGBTQ+ community is that their preferred name is often different than the name they have to register at the college with. “I think more [teachers] could be using names and pronouns that are not on rosters,” she said.

In addition to Safe Zone training and the Chemeketa Reads program, the college will soon allow students to register with their preferred names instead of their legal names.

“[HR is working on an] option on the Chemeketa and the FAFSA and everything to choose ‘other gender,’ ‘other pronouns’ for their gender,” Smith said.

While Smith believes this is a good start, she also hopes that more can be done, lamenting an overall lack of awareness.

“There is a big difference between sex and gender,” she said. “There are three sexes, there are multiple genders. There could be a lot of education on that, which there isn’t.”

Smith also said that in situations where faculty refuse to acknowledge preferred pronouns or gender identification, students seeking administrative support to resolve such conflicts don’t know where to start or who to go to.

According to Herrera, discrimination is not tolerated at Chemeketa and anyone can report such incidents to her or any other staff member.

“If [students] feel like they are being intimidated or harassed or discriminated against, they should be able to contact someone to talk about it so we can then look at that… they might go to their adviser, they might go to a staff employee.”

When asked if students could approach her in her office after instances of discrimination, Herrera said that students “certainly could,” and stated that students can approach any faculty member to raise such concerns in order for them to be addressed.

While many in the LGBTQ+ community may feel uneasy in light of the current political climate, Herrera reassures students that they’re not alone.

“We want our students to know that we love them, and that they’re welcome here, and we will do everything we can to make them feel supported,” she said. “We have policies in place that protect all students. There’s no tolerance for discrimination or harassment… we can’t control what happens outside the world of Chemeketa, right? But we can certainly do the best that we can here.”