Geneseo is an exceptional college, but it lacks a reliable staff support system for LGBTQ-plus students. This is entirely unacceptable for a leading SUNY school that is considered a “public Ivy.” A cursory Google search of “Geneseo LGBTQ” reveals few resources for students. This highlights the core problem facing LGBTQ-plus students: the college officially offers essentially nothing. In all fairness, an LGBTQ-plus working committee was established in 2013 to advocate for students on a policy level for the college. This was an excellent step, however, it does nothing for students seeking LGBTQ-plus support systems.
Associate professor of English Alice Rutkowski has done incredible work for students entirely on a volunteer basis and firmly believes that Geneseo is invested in providing support and resources for LGBTQ-plus students.
“My experience on this committee has demonstrated that our campus is filled with generous, well-intentioned individuals who want to help LGBTQ-plus students in any way they can,” Rutkowski said. “The fact that our Diversity Statement has recently been revised to include gender expression and sexuality is also very heartening.”
While Rutkowski is proud of Geneseo’s commitment to addressing topics like sexuality and gender identity, she believes that the university could do more to improve.
“Our college does not have the same kind of institutional commitment to these issues that our peer institutions do,” she said. “Given the college’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, I hope that we would soon be able to officially dedicate new staff and resources to this important issue.”
The peer institutions that Rutkoswki referred to have an on-staff representative to respond to crises, plan events, advocate for the students and make the college a safer and more comfortable place for LGBTQ-plus students overall.
Not only do schools like Syracuse University have comprehensive support systems with staff, but they also have a resource center and “safe spaces” for LGBTQ-plus students seeking help. Geneseo has nothing of the sort––the only “safe space” here is in the form of weekly Pride Alliance meetings.
Even SUNY Oneonta, a college of comparable size to Geneseo, has both a resource center and a staff member dedicated to these concerns. I have often heard that conditions are just fine for LGBTQ-plus students at Geneseo, so nothing needs to be done. In light of recent alleged harrassment of a transgender student, however, this is clearly not the case.
One might argue this is an anomaly, but my brief tenure on campus says otherwise. As a Pride executive board member, students come to other students and me with intense personal issues, seeking support and guidance because they have nowhere else to go. It is entirely unacceptable that this burden is placed on Pride, a student organization, because the college has put no other safety net in place for these students.
Unlike other minorities, LGBTQ-plus people often have no one to look to for specific support; family members aren’t often LGBTQ-plus, let alone understanding or tolerant. This unique status is what demands institutional support systems that other colleges have recognized and established. Until Geneseo recognizes that it needs a staff member to protect and support its LGBTQ-plus students, the college will fail to adequately show support for them.