Why does the University need this type of program?
While we don't have specific information about our campus, research done on other campuses allows us to understand some of the needs of LGBT students. The challenges LGBT students face are most recently documented in Campus Climate for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People: A National Perspective (2003) a study of 14 colleges and universities across the county that included over 1,600 respondents. The findings from the study for LGBT undergraduate students include:
- More than one-third have experienced harassment on their campus in the past year.
- Those experiencing harassment reported derogatory comments as the most frequent form of harassment (89%) and that students were often the source of the comments.
- Many (51%) concealed their orientation or gender identity to avoid intimidation.
Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual students also have higher suicide risks than their heterosexual counterparts. According to a 2004 report entitled Promoting Mental Health and Preventing Suicide in College University Settings by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, when risk was measured among all college students, LGBT students reported more depression, were lonelier, and had fewer reasons for living as compared to a control group. Those factors correlate positively with suicidal tendencies. Those students also reported experiencing more prejudice.
What are the goals of the program?
The programs' goals are to: increase tolerance among staff, faculty and the student body for LGBT individuals; to have identifiable resources for LGBT students to address concerns related to the issues they face based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity; and to show support for those LGBT individuals impacted by intolerance, hate, and harassment.
What does it mean to be a Hillcat Ally?
Being a Hillcat Ally is a visible display to the campus that you stand up for the rights and well-being of LGBT students. A Hillcat Ally is a non-judgmental listener, knowledgeable about the issues of LGBT students and someone who can provide resources and referral information specific to our campus and community. Allies are not counselors or experts on LGBT people.
How can someone become a Hillcat Ally?
Staff, faculty and students can attend the 2 hour Hillcat Ally training offered through the RSU Counseling Center. This will provide basic information about the needs of LGBT students, how to serve in the role of a Hillcat Ally and what resources exist for LGBT students. After completing the training, participants have the option of officially becoming a Hillcat Ally. They would sign a commitment and receive their Hillcat Ally sign. They can decide to stop being a Hillcat Ally at any time.
What if someone is LGBT or has a lot of knowledge, do they have to go through the training to become a Hillcat Ally and get the sign?
While we recognize that people might have extensive knowledge about their own experiences on being LGBT or even have a research background in that area – our program is specific to being a Hillcat Ally on the RSU campus. So, it includes information about resources, what we expect people's role to be and the needs of our students. In order to become a Hillcat Ally, someone would have to complete the training, regardless of their background.
Doesn't this push a gay agenda on others?
The program does not ask someone to change their personal values. It merely educates participants on the needs of some of the students on our campus. The reality is, LGBT students are a part of the RSU community, and as staff and faculty we have a responsibility to make sure all our students are successful.
Why not include other minority populations? Why just LGBT people?
Unlike other minority populations where you can look and find someone who is just like you, it is not always obvious who might be supportive, understanding and aware of the resources for LGBT students. The Hillcat Ally program helps to bridge that gap. Currently, there are no other programs that support this population of students.