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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

GSS partners with Out and Ally Network to provide staff presence

After the departure of a full-time staff member at the end of last semester, some UNI faculty are collaborating with Gender and Sexuality Services (GSS) to provide needed support and resources.

Last week, the UNI Out and Ally Network extended support to GSS by offering to provide faculty of staff members to be in the office as a resource for students.

Every student is vital and every student has value. These are safe spaces for them and they will remain as such.

— Chiquita Loveless, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice

The Out and Ally Network is a publicly available list of UNI community members who are part of the LGBT community or who have gone through Safe Zone Ally Training for LGBT inclusion. According to Melissa Gevaert, part of the Out and Ally Network leadership team, the group has created a calendar where faculty and staff can sign up for times to volunteer to be in the space, either in person or remotely. The GSS office has access to the calendar as well so students can know when a full-time staff or faculty member will be in the space.

This partnership comes after former LGBTQ+ Student Services Coordinator Kalyani Kannan took a position at West Chester University of Pennsylvania after the end of the fall semester.

“After Kalyani left, we met with some students to kind of talk about ways that we could support them,” Gevaert said. “One of the things that came up was that they did want some full time staff or faculty to be in the space to be there to help them if they need it.”

“I feel like we’re mainly there to be supports, to help with concerns, answer questions. Students have a lot of fears about what’s going on, so kind of being there to listen,” she said.

The faculty members can also direct students to accessible and inclusive campus resources for their needs.

GSS falls under Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and is affected by the Iowa Board of Regents’s recent recommendations limiting the programs at Iowa public universities. According to director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice, Chiquita Loveless, the university is currently unable to fill Kannan’s former position of LGBTQ+ student services coordinator.

“We have to be still because we’re still waiting on providing the final results of what our campus will be doing with regards to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the future. So unfortunately, I’m unable to speak to any future endeavors,” she said.

However, Loveless said that this semester, the office of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice as well as the GSS office will continue to be a welcoming space for students.

“We still have to make sure that each student feels valued. They feel safe in their own space, and so we’re going to continue to provide good service for them,” she said.

Loveless also said that she recognizes the value and importance of the Out and Ally Network’s added support.

“I welcomed them with open arms,” she said. “There’s some things I can provide as the director, but having the Out and Ally come and support us will go a little bit deeper for the students, and the students will be more comfortable because they will have someone that relates and understands a little bit more about who they are and what they do, and support them. That’s the main thing. To know that they have someone that they can speak their language with and the staff and faculty understands.”

Gevaert hopes that the partnership will help give students some security and stability among the uncertainty of what is to come in regards to the Regents’ decision.

“I’m really hoping that that will let students know that even though this is a strange time, that we’re here and we will be continuing to connect with students who use that space throughout the semester. We’ll be continuing to check in with students and make sure that the support we’re providing is what they need,” they said.

Many of the offices of Diversity, Inclusions and Social Justice will likely be undergoing changes in the future based on the Board of Regents’s recommendations. Loveless says that she is devoted to continuing to provide the best support possible.

“My goal, and I stand on my word, is that any student that frequents or needs support from Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice will get A plus service, 110% from each one of the staff members as well as myself here,” she said. “Average is not good enough. So we’re not just going to let anyone just slither by. We’re going to make sure that all the resources and support are provided, whether it’s GSS, Military and Veteran Student Services, whether it’s our Thrive program or the Center for Multicultural Education, every student is important. Every student is vital and every student has value. These are safe spaces for them and they will remain as such.”

Loveless has another message for students: Use your voice.

“You are not alone. You have more support than you know, but the thing is, you have to come around, continue to come around, and you have to continue to use your voice. You have to continue to be your best person and not curl up in a corner or have just go and hide away or just suffer in silence. Be your best, do your best and we will be here to support you as best we can.”

More information about Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice at UNI can be found at dis.uni.edu.

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MALLORY SCHMITZ, News Editor

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