Mills College faculty and staff are working toward making the campus a safer place for students of all gender and sexual orientation identities by creating the Mills Bridge Advocate Team (MBAT).
MBAT is a collection of nearly 30 faculty and staff who have come together to meet once a semester and support lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Questioning, Twospirit, Pansexual, Asexual and Genderfluid (LGBTQIQ2PAG) students navigate the world, their life at Mills and become advocates for themselves.
“We are trying to create a connection between students, faculty and staff and help people to understand that not all students are the same,” said Neil Virtue, head of the project and swim coach.
According to Meredith May, a lecturer in the Journalism department and member of MBAT, in the first meeting this semester, they discussed ways for professors to rewrite their syllabi, gender neutral bathrooms, classroom culture and signs around campus encouraging students to use correct pronouns.
After nearly two years of planning, a list of MBAT members went live online in April and can now be found in the Diversity and Social Justice section of the Mills College website. The list of faculty and staff includes their interests, sexual orientation identities and a formal acknowledgement that they agree to help, advocate for and support students as well as educate themselves per the guidelines the MBAT has created.
“I think this was one of many initiatives that are the natural next move in making Mills a braver space for students with the vast range of identities we bring to this campus,” ASMC president Skylar Crownover said in an email.
Following the Report on Inclusion of Transgender and Gender Fluid Students in Apr. 2013 that was prepared by the Gender Identity and Expression Sub-Committee and the recent admissions policy changes, Virtue said he realized that there needed to be a team to support LGBTQIQ2PAG students, educate faculty and staff, and address issues that arise on campus.
May believes Mills is at the forefront of the conversations about gender.
“The eyes are on Mills,” May said. “As the whole notion of gender is changing, it is going to be a bumpy road. The Mills Bridge Advocate Team is a place to address issues that might come up.”
Virtue hopes that in the future the Bridge Advocate Team can help educate incoming students about sexuality and gender and sexual orientation identities through activities for incoming students. Virtue also hopes to have a section on the portal that would consolidate information about sexuality and gender identity from various parts of the Mills website.
As May points out, the changes at Mills will be continuous and the MBAT is here to learn, grow, educate and support the Mills College Community throughout.