Michelle Hymowitz, GSA President
During an advisory committee meeting, the subject of the Campus Climate Index for the LGBTQ community on campus became topic of conversation. Campus Climate Index was created to help college campuses learn different ways to improve their LGBTQ life and be more inclusive and welcoming. SUNY Oneonta has a 3.5 out of 5 as our LGBT-friendly score. Why do we not have a higher score? SUNY Oneonta is lacking in LGBT Academic Life. There are only two classes that are offered this semester on LGBTQ studies, and they are not said to remain permanent. As president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), I took this information and decided that it was time for the students to speak out about this. I spoke with the GSA Executive Board about writing a letter to Dr. Kleniewski explaining our yearning for more LGBTQ classes. Nicholas Holterman, the GSA secretary put together an incredible letter discussing the Campus Climate Index score, the women and gender studies department, and the students’ desire for more LGBTQ classes. I figured that this was the perfect time to bring this up to Dr. Kleniewski because of the diversity kick that our school is on. With 90-plus signatures attached to the letter, my friend Katherine Thompson and myself went to the president’s office.
After Dr. Kleniewski had read only but a few lines of the letter, she remarked that she does not handle academics and it’s the provost’s responsibility, so she walked us over to the provost’s office. She explained to the provost’s secretary and assistants that we would like to see an improvement in LGBT Academic Life. Without any of them saying a word to Katherine or myself, Dr. Kleniewski then proceeded to walk us out of the office, and said we will be hearing from them.
This, however, was not the end of the conversation. Before Katherine and I left, Dr. Kleniewski brought up how I was mis-gendered last year in the dining hall; one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life. She wanted to talk to me about the policies that the dining halls have when someone does not look like the picture on their student ID. Dr. Kleniewski announced that they are allowed to challenge people. I then proceeded to say that there is a difference between challenging someone and throwing their ID in the cash register, calling over the manager, and saying “This man here is trying to pass for this woman,” in front of students that I did not even know. After this was said, she sort of just said “right,” and that was the end of it.
I walked away with Katherine and was stunned. I honestly could not believe that was brought up to me in front of another student. Now this might have just been a misunderstanding of some sorts, but it did hurt. It has now been two weeks since the letter was given to the provost, and GSA has not heard from them, and I have heard that I probably will not hear from them.