October 22, 2016

Student Activism and Looking to the Future at IUPUI: Harvey Milk Dinner

Indianapolis Marriott Downtown
Indianapolis, Indiana

Introduction and Acknowledgements

Thank you, Karen, and thank you all for being here tonight.

I want to let you know that my gender pronouns are he, him, and his.

I want to say a special word of thanks to faculty advisors to the LGBTQ Alliance, Anne Mitchell as well as to all of the faculty and staff members who support our LGBTQ+ students. It is impossible to measure all that you have given to IUPUI students in terms of your time, your guidance, and your emotional support.  Would you please help me thank Anne and all of our faculty and staff mentors?

Two Firsts at IUPUI

Earlier this month, we had two “firsts” at IUPUI:

  • The first time Westboro Baptist Church protested on our campus

  • The first time our campus came together in a spontaneous and inclusive show of pride and community by way of a giant dance party.

I don’t want to spend time talking about Westboro Baptist Church. Let me just say that they don’t share my beliefs and their hate does not belong on our campus.

In response, our students, faculty, and staff—including many of you here tonight—formed a human wall between the protesters and the rest of campus.

We turned up the music and danced together in Taylor Quad.

Because of all this, Westboro abandoned their protest at IUPUI.

I have never been prouder of our campus.  

Last week’s event wasn’t just about LGBTQ students. It was about support and creating a space for difficult conversations.  It was about expressing the character of our campus as a space for intellectual growth.

What IUPUI Administration Can Do

It was also about student leadership. That counter protest was not organized by the IUPUI administration. It grew out of student, faculty, and staff activism and engagement. As administrators, we can do many things.

We can implement all gender restrooms.

  • We currently have all-gender restrooms in 22 buildings on our campus (including 7 in medical buildings)
  • We are working to create additional All Gender restrooms in University Library and in the Science Building.

We can work with human resources to expand benefits. In fact, I worked with a team at IUPUI to help spur the recent addition of transgender benefits to the portfolio of benefits IU offers our employees.

We can establish an LGBTQ+ Center where students can gather and feel a sense of community. I am delighted we were able to do this and to bring Tristan Vaught to campus to lead this important center.

We have done all of these things.

We Still Have Work To Do

But we can’t oversee and organize activism and engagement of the sort we saw on October 4th when the protesters arrived.

And we can’t satisfy ourselves with what we have achieved.

All of us must look to the future to see what work remains to be done.

We continue to work on raising awareness of LGBTQ students on our campus.

This was the focus of the conversation at one of our deans meetings earlier this year. And many groups discussed LGBTQ awareness at our campus climate town hall meetings in the spring and at our Welcoming Campus Town Hall meeting this fall.

We continue to work on creating spaces that maximize learning without making students feel threatened.

We continue to work on encouraging civil dialogue that ensures respect and safety.

The Winners Plan The Party

As we look to the future, I challenge all of the students here to let your voices be heard. This is especially important as we prepare for IUPUI’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Right now we are deciding how to celebrate this great milestone, and we want your ideas.

Go to my website: chancellor.iupui.edu and click on the IUPUI 50th Anniversary button.

They say that the winners always write the history books.

I would also say that the winners get to plan the party.

Well, this is your party.

This is our party.

And we need to get to work.