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Students, Faculty Form Group To Address Homosexual Issues

By Zareena Hussain
Associate news editor

A group of concerned faculty and students recently organized the new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues Group to tackle some of the problems students may face on campus.

The official charge of the group is to "foster a safe and welcoming environment for LGBT students and to ensure that the educational mission of MIT is upheld for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity," said Carol Orme-Johnson, official spokesperson for the group and director of mediation.

The group is currently in the process of trying to pull together a list of resources specifically for LBGTstudents, to assess the needs of students, and to create a response mechanism to deal with anti-LBGTincidents on campus.

"No such mechanism currently exists," Orme-Johnson said.

The group is also circulating a survey to assess the needs of the LBGTcommunity at MIT, which has been posted on the World Wide Web at http://web.mit.edu/residence/www/lbgt/lbgt.html.

The new group is looking for more student members. Currently, only one-fourth of the group's members are students; the others are faculty or administrators.

"We would like to have any students concerned about LBGT issues. This does not preclude heterosexual students," Orme-Johnson said.

While the group consists of MITadministrators, faculty members, and students alike, it is not an officially sanctioned Institute committee.

"This is a group of people who get together over their mutual concern," Orme-Johnson said.

While members of the group come from a variety of MITdepartments, "no one on the group is on the group as a representative of any particular office," Orme-Johnson said.

Existing groups with interests similar to the LBGT Issues Group are Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends at MIT (GAMIT)and Gay, Bisexual, and Lesbian Employees and Staff (GABLES).

LBGTissues addressed in forum

As part of GAMIT's TBGLAD (Transgender, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Awareness Days) activities last week, the LBGTIssuesGroup met with students to listen to their concerns.

Some of the issues brought up at the forum were problems with Residence and Orientation Week and the need for an administration-sponsored "queer resource center," proposed by Adrian Banard G, member of the LBGT IssuesGroup and political coordinator for GAMIT.

R/O is "not a queer-happy place," Banard said.

According to rush rules, student activities are prohibited from holding events until Activities Midway.

Groups like GAMITremain a less visible alternative during rush, Banard said.

Group an alternative to GAMIT

Another issue brought up at the meeting was the apparent reliance of the administration on GAMITand other student groups as a source of support services for LBGTstudents.

"It's the school's responsibility to make people feel comfortable," Banard said. "If something bad happens and GAMITdoesn't respond, nothing happens."

Members of the LBGTIssuesGroup agree that there should be a resource other than GAMITfor students to look to for help.

"Not all LBGTstudents on campus are members of GAMIT," Orme-Johnson said.

"There are stereotypes about GAMIT," said John J. Graham G, a member of the new group. For instance, "there is a stereotype that if you're a guy, you have to dress in drag."

GAMIT "is viewed as a radical political organization," Graham said. Some LBGTstudents "don't feel they can go to GAMIT."

"Those who most need the resources won't access them," he said.