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Graduate study focuses on LGBT students

Robert Penalber
Staff Writer

Members of the LGBT community generally feel accepted on campus, but do not necessarily know where to turn when they need help, a qualitative research study found.

Resident directors Lisa Tundis and Garrett Isom conducted the study focussing on members of the LGBT community to measure their overall experience at the University.

The study began in Sept. 2011 and lasted nine weeks.

“We both care about this student group a lot,” Isom said. “I’m a member of the LGBT community and so I always want to be serving that student group and figure out how to better their experience.”

Tundis said she found the study to be a rewarding experience.

“I’ve learned so much in the process myself,” Tundis said.

Isom and Tundis started with 12 personal student interviews, and then created a focus group of seven for the study.

Participants were asked open-ended questions about all aspects of their schooling.

Questions ranged from classrooms to student life, in order to get a feel of the La Verne experience for students that are apart of the LGBT community.

After analyzing the data, Tundis and Isom did member- checking with the focus group.

The study revealed a large sense of activism among students.

“From their experiences in being in the LGBT community, they have this sense to stand up for the cause,” Tundis said.

Another result from the study found that students felt more comfortable being open with their sexualities on campus than they did at home.

Tundis said that students generally feel safe and accepted at La Verne. Students also feel very welcome by faculty and staff, and are able to speak about certain issues and turn to them for guidance.

“It has a lot to do with the integration of safe zone training that’s come on campus through the Department of Education,” Tundis said.

The safe zone stickers across campus give LGBT students a feeling of acceptance and that there is always someone available to talk to, the study found.

While the results of the study proved to be positive, Tundis and Isom found there was also room for improvement on campus.

“We found, as an institution, this school is accepting to LGBT students, but the specific resources are not centralized,” Isom said.

Acceptance and supporters of LGBT are spread out, so students stepping foot on campus might not know where exactly to go to get help.

“When we say we want to create more resources, we mean a lot more visible resources and a centralization of the support that’s already in place,” Isom said.

Multicultural Affairs Director Daniel Loera says she is aware of the need.

“It’s definitely a work in progress of creating more awareness,” Loera said. “It’s been assisted by the faculty and staff who help foster an open environment.”

The study found that students are asking for a place on campus specifically designated for LGBT students.

Space allocation seems to halt that for now, especially with the need for more classrooms.

Isom and Tundis, alumni of ULV, hope to work with Rainbow Alliance and the Office of Multicultural Services to bring centralization to resources and see a possibility of LGBT courses in the future.

“We know that there’s a space issue on campus, and we know that it will take time, but for now just getting the awareness out there that that’s what students are asking for is at least one step in the right direction,” Tundis said.

Robert Penalber can be reached at robert.penalber@laverne.edu.

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