University officials say LGBTQ+ representation and protection are topics to be learned


Addison Greene, News Writer, [email protected]

Members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to face challenges and proposed law changes that could affect education, safety and more.

“We don’t currently have any statistics on LGBTQ+ representation on campus, however we are still waiting for the data analysis on a campus climate survey from a few years back,” said  Heather Lindkvist, UNC Asheville’s Title IX Coordinator and Clery Act coordinator. 

Lindkvist said she came to learn of a large, vibrant queer community on campus. 

“Under federal law the supreme court ruled under Title VII, which protects sex discrimination, also protects sex orientation individuals from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Lindkvist said. 

She said several states in 2022 filed an injunction against the federal government for  introducing these policies, which does not include North Carolina at this point. 

“Title IX does apply to protection against discrimination based on certain categories,” said  Lindkvist. “Something can be done, the university responds in many different ways, and  prevention education is key here.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, the departments have been preliminarily enjoined and restrained from implementing the policies against the states that filed the injunctions. 

“We often collectively might say there are lower level incidents or behaviors that happen that are impacting individuals who identify as non-straight,” Lindkvist said. “For instance, I’m bisexual, identifying that way and being targeted that way because of their sexual orientation.” 

Lindkvist said the negotiated changes and proposed rulemaking for Title IX would include sex discrimination, including sex stereotypes and assumptions about what it means to be a boy or a  girl. 

“As an anthropologist this is fundamental to my work,” Lindkvist said. “Deconstructing the social and cultural construction of gender, so what does it mean to be a boy or a girl.” 

Lindkvist said complaints are taken seriously by herself and the university. 

“Acknowledging individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, non-binary or otherwise, if they face harassment, they can pursue a formal complaint under grievance policies that comply with Title IX,” Lindkvist said. 

Melanie Fox, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, said there are many resources in place for  LGBTQ+ students, but there is still work to do.

“UNC Asheville likely has the highest percentage of students who identify as non-binary,” Fox said. “This means we must take seriously the issues transgender students face and ensure we are providing the support systems in order for them to feel safe, secure and successful.” 

Kelly Biers, assistant professor of French and women, gender and sexuality studies said there is often no proof implicit bias against LGBTQ+ students is happening. 

“What’s harder to enforce is anything related to implicit bias,” Biers said. “It can show up in grading, who gets chosen to join a research project, who gets the best mentoring, who is heard in class and who is not heard.” 

Biers said implicit bias is not just a university wide practice, but academia in general. 

“If you’re on tenure track, your position is relatively safe,” Biers said. “Tenure faculty are not immune, but have a lot more safety in terms of your job and can’t be dismissed or reassigned without some sort of major clear reason.” 

Biers said depending on the kind of faculty member you are, protections can look a little different. 

“I think a bigger thing we need, both faculty and students, is mental health support,” Biers said. “Navigating mental health support is hard. Students have the health and counseling system, but those services need more support,” Biers said. 

Biers said the future of North Carolina legislation is uncertain, and the feeling could become chronic stress. 

“So many times I hear that students try to make an appointment with health and counseling, but can’t get in for a while. But for faculty we have to go through our insurance, we have to figure out who will accept our insurance and seeking out a therapist is not an easy task, especially for queer faculty,” Biers said. 

Biers said navigating the current political climate is challenging, especially for queer students, with anti-LGBTQ+ laws being introduced in Florida, Texas and Tennessee. 

“I think conflict management training is something that would be helpful,” Biers said. “We need to be able to open up space in class for students to say ‘what you just said was not okay’ and to be able to address it and move on.”