ASG urges Northwestern to quickly hire administrator to support LGBTQ students


Evan Robinson-Johnson / Daily Senior Staffer

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. An Associated Student Government petition is calling on the administrations to fill the position of Multicultural Student Association assistant director, who is in charge of resources for LGBTQ students.

Wilson Chapman, Reporter

Associated Student Government is circulating a petition demanding Northwestern speed up the hiring process for a new Multicultural Student Association assistant director to support LGBTQ students after the position was vacated in February.

The petition, which was passed into legislation on May 8 and currently has over 200 signatures, demands the University commit to ensuring the position is filled for the entirety of the 2019-2020 academic year, and an interim assistant director is hired before a permanent official takes the position. The petition also calls for administrators to include transgender and non-binary student input in the process of hiring for the position, and give a firm timeline on when there will be a full-time person in the position.

“The continued inaction of Northwestern University to fill the assistant director position creates the possibility of the position remaining vacant during the 2019-2020 academic year, and endangers the health and well-being of its gender queer, nonbinary, and transgender students,” the petition reads.

SESP sophomore Soteria Reid, ASG’s vice president for justice and inclusion and a co-author of the petition, said she had been looking for a way for ASG to address the vacancy since the previous MSA assistant director in charge of LGBTQ students, JT Turner, announced they were leaving the school in February. Reid said the position was important for transgender and non-binary students because it is “almost the sole point of support” the school provides them, and they are one of the smallest and most vulnerable populations on campus.

“JT was really integral in being a mentor, guiding hand, advocate and all-around friend to the trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming communities,” Reid said. “So the loss of that position was felt very strongly in those communities.”

Before beginning work on the petition, Reid first consulted with SESP junior Adam Davies, ASG’s current executive vice president, to make sure a transgender person’s perspective was being heard. After that, she and Rainbow Alliance senator Elynnor Sandefer worked on writing the legislation, with Davies acting as a consultant.

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding
JT Turner, the previous Assistant Director of MSA at a Transgender Day of remembrance vigil last September. After Turner vacated their position, ASG released a petition calling for an interim assistant director to take their place.

Reid said the University has responded positively to the petition and that she, along with Davies and ASG President Izzy Dobbel, will meet Wednesday with MSA director Daviree L. Velázquez Phillip to talk about an official timeline. Reid said they were informed the timeline laid out in the petition is very achievable.

Davies said it is important to understand the University was already looking to replace Turner in the position. However, due to the intricacies of the hiring process, he believes the school likely would not have hired an interim director to fill the position and would have left the role vacant until at least Winter Quarter 2020, leaving a significant gap in trans resources on campus.

Davies said Turner was a very important figure in the trans community at Northwestern because of how active they were in looking out for the safety and health of trans students on campus. Davies said Turner would email him every month or so to check in, and did so with most trans students at NU. As the MSA assistant director in charge of LGBTQ issues, Turner was the one who answered every question regarding LGBTQ issues incoming students or parents had, and co-chaired the Genderqueer, Non-Binary and Trans task force with him, Davies added.

Davies said although he is happy the University has responded to the demands of the petition, the fact there is only one real representative of the trans community at Northwestern remains a problem. Davies said Northwestern needs to commit to providing more representation of trans and non-binary people in its staff.

“I always say that there’s more to be done. I know that I’ve actually seen a lot of change and progress happen in my time here,” Davies said. “One of the things that I think is going to be a big focus … is prioritizing having faculty and staff who can teach about transgender issues and identifying that way. I see that as another step the University needs to take.”

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