Students have been making an effort to amend Geneseo’s conduct policy so that outing an LGBTQ+ person is considered an offense. While the administration has been largely receptive to this effort, making an official change to the policy has proven to be complicated.
The drive for this amendment largely began in the fall semester with senior Mark Romig and his boyfriend senior John Boselli. Romig’s relationship with Boselli was revealed without his consent by another Geneseo student.
“This started a whole series of escalating events where I had to go home [and] tell my parents when I was not ready,” Romig said. “I had to confront all these people I didn’t know, I received harassing text messages and it was all within 24 hours.”
Romig expressed the belief that it was his support system of family and friends that “kept [him] sane” through this period.
“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again because someone else may not be as lucky as I am,” he said. After he was outed, Romig attempted to reach out to his resident assistants and to the administration at large. “I went down a lot of different routes and every single route I was blocked off,” he said. “I gave up.”
Ultimately, it was Boselli who became “an advocate” for Romig, drafting a list of proposed policy changes and guidelines along with students in Pride Alliance as well as several other individuals and submitting them to Vice President of Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio. These proposed guidelines begin with education for “less severe” offenses.
This education would potentially include facilitated meetings as well as SafeZone Training for offenders. Romig added that enforcement would only come into play with the “most severe” offenses, in which a malicious intent to cause “mental, emotional harm” is present.
According to Dean of Students and Director of Center for Community Leonard Sancilio, education in LGBTQ+ issues with a focus on privacy is already becoming a bigger part of the Geneseo experience. “We’ve taken the approach of trying to educate people [and] make them aware of what the impact is to others,” Sancilio said.
This begins with new student programs—which have been expanded to address these issues—and continues with other initiatives such as SafeZone Training. According to Sancilio, however, enforcement is where the issue becomes complex.
“How do you determine intentionality?” he asked. “Is something an accident? Is something not known? And another piece is, if someone is telling some information that is true, is that a violation? I don’t know.” Interim Director of Lauderdale Center for Student Health and Counseling Tamara Kenney echoed Sancilio’s sentiment of caution.
Outing an LGBTQ+ individual without their consent is “clearly a violation of someone’s privacy… but is it a violation of the code of conduct? I think [that] is a much deeper and more complex conversation,” Kenney said.
Sancilio added that while the administration is interested in revisiting the conduct policy in order to reflect these issues, freedom of speech may come into play—which may, in turn, make outside legal counsel a necessary resource. According to Romig, while the decision on whether to change the policy is ultimately in the administration’s hands, student voices can still have an impact.
“The information needs to be out there,” he said. “We all know that this is a small campus … [and that] information travels quickly. But there’s a difference between just spreading a rumor and using it maliciously.”
Sancilio is less confident about this distinction.
“It’s the distinction between creating a community that is welcoming to everybody but also is fair to everybody,” Sancilio said. “We’re not taking rights away from people, but we’re trying to create a community that is also what we want it to be.”