University Senate

Committee addresses homophobia within SU Athletics

Homophobia is “an everyday experience” for Syracuse University student-athletes, according to findings from SU’s Committee on LGBT Concerns.

At Wednesday’s University Senate meeting, the committee presented its annual report, which addressed homophobia in athletics, along with updates to Health Services, health coverage and gender-neutral housing.

“One of the issues that we looked at very deeply this semester was the experience of our LGBT athletes, and I think what we found was pretty shocking,” said Beth Ferri, the committee member who presented the report.

Ferri added that SU has received positive marks from the Campus Climate Index, a national non-profit survey that assesses the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender campus climate. Looking into homophobia in athletics was a new issue for the committee, Ferri said.

At the end of the spring 2012 semester, the committee said it was made aware of issues student-athletes were having on and off campus with homophobia. The committee reported having difficulty in getting students to come forward to speak openly on the topic.

According to the committee’s report, the committee examined the 2012 LGBTQ College Athlete Report, which reports on national LGBT issues in college athletics. The committee reported that the national findings were mirrored in events at SU, such as the fact that student-athletes who identify as LGBT are twice as likely to experience harassment than their heterosexual teammates.

Ferri presented the report and brought up concerns that student-athletes expressed, from having to share hotel beds with teammates to experiencing coaches walk into locker rooms before student-athletes were fully dressed.

“The No. 1 issue that students brought up were their experiences in locker rooms as being really a dangerous place and a very hostile place and very uncomfortable place,” Ferri said.

The committee presented the following recommendations to improve the atmosphere for student-athletes, which present Senate members unanimously approved.

The full recommendations included:

• Remodel all locker rooms and shower facilities to provide adequate privacy for showering and dressing for all athletes of all sports.

• Ensure that until locker rooms and shower facilities are remodeled, no coaches — male or female — are allowed into locker rooms until athletes are fully dressed.

• Ensure all athletes staying in hotels are provided with their own beds.

• In consultation with the LGBT Resource Center and outside consultants, establish on-going and mandatory anti-harassment training for all coaches, staff and athletic personnel.

• In consultation with the LGBT Resource Center and outside consultants, develop explicit anti-harassment and anti-homophobia policies for athletes, coaches and referees. There should be set consequences for violations to this policy and procedures to ensure the policy is implemented consistently.

• Consult NCAA and LGBT Resource Center in developing a proactive policy for transgender athletes.

• Eliminate all gender-normative expectations and requirements for appearance for student-athletes.

• In consultation with the LGBT Subcommittee, conduct a survey of current and former student-athletes to explore climate issues around LGBT issues.

• Offer exit interviews with a neutral party or exit survey for any student-athlete that quits a team.

• Ensure NCAA officials or referees are aware of anti-harassment and anti-homophobia policy, and ensure any violation to this policy is included in any referee evaluation.

There were a number of other updates the committee presented covering health services, gender-neutral housing and the registrar.

Regarding health coverage, SU Insurance now covers domestic partner benefits and transition-related services for transgender faculty and staff. Health Services at SU also recently formed a committee charged with making “Health Services more inclusive to the LGBTQ community,” according to the report.

The committee also reviewed university forms and information related to name and gender markers on university forms.

Senators asked for the athletic department report during the first meeting of the 2013-14 academic year in response to the LGBT Concerns Committee’s report. Senators also recommended that a member of the committee be appointed liaison to the Athletics Policy Committee.


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