ASU faculty and staff work to promote LGBT+ visibility

Ubiquity was one of the first groups on campus to unite LGBT+ faculty and staff to advocate for their community

The evolution of the nation's political climate surrounding LGBT+ issues are reflected in the shifting organization of University faculty and staff in response.

Shannon Lank, an ASU instructor and chair for LGBTQ* ASU Faculty and Staff Association, the University's current LGBT+ teacher alliance, said despite the University’s expanding support of LGBT+ students and employees, she and other staff members continue to encounter homophobia at ASU.

“I have colleagues that have talked about being called derogatory names on campus,” she said. “I've also been in the position where I've had students call me derogatory names, but never my personal students — I would like to make that very clear.”

Lank said the LGBTQ* ASU Faculty and Staff Association allows her and others to set a positive example.

“My students need to be able to see that I'm out,” she said. “They need to see that I'm visible and not cowering behind some sort of wall.”

The association focuses on increasing visibility for the LGBT+ community on campus and advocating for related issues faced by faculty and staff.

The roots of the association is documented with a website saturated with pixelated graphic and a color palette reminiscent of the pre-2000s web belonging to the former LGBT+ faculty and staff alliance, Ubiquity

Providing a window to the past of ASU's LGBT+ community, the website states Ubiquity was an informal group created in March of 1994, “as a result of Arizona's political climate at the time.” The group was open to faculty and staff who identified as LGBT+ or allies. 

Although Ubiquity was not an official association at ASU, it provided a space for LGBT+ faculty members to organize and connect during a time when the U.S. was less supportive of issues such as gay marriage

Members subscribed to a list service providing information about relevant topics within the LGBT+ community, as well as social events happening around campus.

Seth Levine, a manager in information technology at the University Technology Office and former Ubiquity board member, said the group addressed LGBT+ issues faced by ASU faculty and staff.

“This was before ASU’s inclusion policy mentioned LGBT folks,” Levine said. “My involvement began in 2000 or so, and at the time we were interested in looking at equality in terms of employee benefits, health care and similar issues.” 

Soon after he joined, Levine said Ubiquity met with the University president and provost to advocate for equal benefits for LGBT+ employees which made a lasting impact.

“They came up with a way to do it,” he said. “There was actually a subsidy that was provided to couples who were not legally able to marry in order to get health insurance for their partners.” 

Levine said as LGBT+ rights increased nationwide, the group felt its work was less relevant on campus.

“The people who were involved became sort of tired of doing it,” Levine said. “When equal marriage became available, we could all marry whoever we wanted to marry and employee benefits came along with that.”

After about 20 years of work at the University, Ubiquity gradually disbanded and was replaced by the LGBTQ* ASU Faculty and Staff Association in June 2016. 

Nancy Godoy, an assistant archivist and secretary for the LGBTQ* ASU Faculty and Staff Association, said although its work is historically focused on faculty and staff, the group is pushing to work with student organizations as well.

“We've been thinking about creating a mentorship program,” she said. “Our idea is that the faculty and staff association would provide mentors for students in LGBT organizations on campus.”

Much of Godoy's work focuses on increasing the community's visibility. She co-established the Arizona LGBT History Project, which makes archival records of Arizona’s LGBT+ history more accessible.

Read more: ASU library collaborates with Phoenix Pride to demonstrate LGBT history.

“I think the LGBT community and other minority groups are often dehumanized in Arizona,” Godoy said. “So it’s important to be advocates for not only the community within ASU but communities outside of the University as well.”


Reach the reporter at jkbeneve@asu.edu and follow @JacobBenevento on Twitter.

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