Loud and Proud: Foothill Administration Promotes LGBTQ Awareness

A malicious hate crime was committed on Wednesday, January 24th at De Anza College — 28 year old anthropology major Deejea Smith was called an anti-gay slur before being knocked out by a punch in the face during a late night at the Flint parking garage. Foothill College students who have heard of the incident have been uneasy: will it happen here, or are we safe?

To give the community a platform to voice their concerns, the Associated Students of Foothill College and the Gender-Sexuality Awareness Club co-hosted an open forum — Loud and Proud: Town Hall for LGBTQ* Awareness — where students, counselors, and faculty shared perspectives in regards to addressing transphobia here on our campus.

Danya Adib, President of ASFC, led the Monday, February 26 discussion. “We want to hear from you. How can your student government, how can your school support you guys in times like this?” In response to the transphobic assault at De Anza, Adib said “this event… is a reminder that we need to have these conversations.”

How will students be kept safe? Does the college have any deterrents or responses in place? According to Sean Bogle, Dean of Student Affairs, “I know that working with students, working in this community, sometimes, these events happen. But that being said, I believe as your Dean of Student Affairs and Activities, my role is twofold in regards to incidents like this…to provide educational opportunities and help at these events…[and to ensure that if] the misfortunate circumstances such as what De Anza [experienced] or something like that…occurs in our campus, we respond in a way that is fair, and respond in a way that ensures all students feel safe on our campus.” Bogle’s goal is “to ensure that all students, no matter how or what they identify as, feel supported and safe on our campus.”

English professor Scott Lankford was next to voice his concerns — “[we should] not just shake our heads when we hear that something has happened, but actually take action.”

Lankford criticised Foothill’s actions, stating that while he is glad some things are being done — such as the organization of the town hall — “by comparison to many other campuses, we are not doing our job…We have got to do better.” Lankford went on to explicitly express three particular concerns and offered a suggestions for easy fixes.

Lankford addressed what he sees as inadequate signage for gender neutral bathrooms. “[Students] go into a place where [they] feel unsafe in, in order to find a sign that says where [they] should go to feel safe.” Many bathrooms, including that of the cafeteria, only identify general neutral locations on posters inside — creating a potentially hostile environment for students must enter in order to find information. According to Lankford, “All we need to do is move the signs outside.”

Lankford also advocated for the restoration of queer safe space signs. “Twenty years ago, we had more signs up that said queer safe space with little pink triangles…twenty years ago, we had more signs up that said this is a safe space if you are a LGBTQ. And I think we got complacent.”

Lankford opined that the signs are “as necessary as ever.” “When I go to San Francisco State, when I go to San Jose State, when I go to Stanford, when I go to Berkeley, I see many more signs like that than when I go to my own campus. And again, maybe because we think we don’t need it, but I think we are wrong.”

Lastly, Lankford suggested education and training in order to maintain a safe community.

Addressing these concerns was Denise Swett, the Vice President of Student Services. “Just right off the bat, I am going to say, we’ll take care of the first two things Scott took care of.… we are going to get stickers back on campus… and I’ll do my best on the signage.” Swett also indicated a possibilities for education sessions and mentioned that “Laureen [Balducci, associate Vice President of Student Services and Foothill Title IX Coordinator,] has talked about doing some training as well.”

Personal experience aside, Swett expressed her perspectives on the De Anza hate crime and assured students that it would be handled differently if it were to happen at Foothill. “We were aghast at how De Anza handled this situation; we actually talked about it in our cabinet today of what would be our response, and I assure you…when we would have heard about that, we have been on it with the police; we would have been on it with a message to the community on our tolerance — we are not tolerant here to that kind of thing.”

According to Swett, as well as members of the supportive community at Foothill, “We have a lot of people here who really care about you, and are on our staff here, our faculty here, our managers — and we will help you. We want to be part of it. We don’t want you to go through anything that you don’t need to.”

The town hall is over, but the conversation is not. The Script will follow this issue within coming months to see if proposed policies take shape at Foothill College to protect and support the LGBTQ* communities. Students can talk to their ASFC representatives about proposals or send ideas to [email protected]