The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed a resolution on Monday calling on the University to take steps to facilitate communication with the LGBTQ+ community regarding changes to support services, such as those provided by the LGBT Resource Center.
The resolution specifically requests the release of “campus-wide communication” that would clarify these changes and the creation of a “University Council on LGBTQ+ Affairs” that would include LGBTQ+ representatives from different communities to “review Cornell’s support infrastructure for the LGBTQ+ community and to advise the administration regarding future changes.”
Additionally, the resolution advocates for “the strategic planning of the expansion of the LGBTRC,” according to the resolution.
GPSA Resolution 9 comes as a response to Employee Assembly Resolution 8, which was adopted by the E.A. on Nov. 9.
E.A. Resolution 8 called on the administration to rescind a directive issued by the Dean of Students in 2017 “for the LGBTRC to no longer serve staff and faculty due to [it] being understaffed,” according to the language of E.A. Resolution 8.
Manisha Munasinghe grad, executive vice president of GPSA and a cosponsor of the GPSA resolution, told The Sun that to some involved parties, President Martha E. Pollack’s Jan. 2 acknowledgement of E.A. Resolution 8 “seemed to indicate that the faculty and staff were not going to be allowed to use the LGBTRC in the way that they’ve historically been allowed to.”
Pollack wrote in her acknowledgement that while LGBTQ+ faculty and staff would still be able to “visit” the LGBTRC, “to provide the appropriate levels of service, separating educational and support services for students from faculty and staff allows Cornell to meet the unique needs of our LGBTQ students, as they pursue their degrees.”
Munasinghe discussed how the GPSA resolution was drafted in light of Pollack’s response.
“So we wrote this resolution sort of to express our solidarity with our LGBTQ+ faculty and staff colleagues and say that they should have equal access to the programming put on by the LGBTRC,” she said.
However, University leaders including Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life and Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur clarified in a meeting with the GPSA resolution’s sponsors that faculty and staff will still be able to use the LGBTRC for programming, according to GPSA Resolution 9.
The Division of Human Resources will handle “staff diversity and inclusion training” and “bias incidents,” according to the resolution.
Munasinghe expressed her concerns about the communication between the University and faculty and students regarding these LGBTRC changes.
“We’re just really frustrated that it wasn’t communicated effectively to not only the employees but also to students,” she told The Sun.
Munasinghe, however, said she is “encouraged” after a “productive meeting with the administration.” She told The Sun that she thinks changes will occur, and she emphasized the importance of including the LGBTQ+ community in conversations about future policy.
“I think LGBTQ+ community members across the board sort of sometimes get left out of the conversation when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion,” she said.
“I think not only with sort of this [University Council on LGBTQ+ Affairs] but also with the new creation of the Loving House, I think it’s really important to make sure that everybody, you know, across constituencies can come together and think about what are the best next steps for Cornell to best support LGBTQ+ community members,” she added.
After voting on Resolution 9, GPSA also passed Resolution 12: “Calling for the Creation of a Graduate and Professional Student Specific ‘Notice and Respond: Friend 2 Friend’ Workshops.”
This resolution requests that the administration fund a graduate and professional student workshop analogous to the bystander intervention F2F Workshop available to undergraduate students. The F2F Workshop “was designed to help students to consider their role in Cornell’s support support network and ways they might respond when peers show signs of distress,” according to a University press release from November 2011.
Munasinghe, who also co-sponsored Resolution 12, told The Sun that the resolution will be particularly important because of the disproportionate impact of mental health issues on graduate and professional students.
“The hope was that by creating a Notice and Respond: Friend 2 Friend workshop specifically for graduate and professional students, we could help graduate students intervene when they see students in their program who are suffering, and making sure they can actually get the support they need from Cornell,” she said.