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Senate and VSG to Partner to bring Gender Awareness to VU Faculty

The Faculty Senate is pleased to partner with Vanderbilt Student Government to bring awareness and sensitivity to matters addressing gender identity. “Vanderbilt Student Body President Elizabeth Shahnasarian, Speaker of the Senate Jackson Vaught, and VSG Chief of Staff Julia Gabriel approached the Senate Executive Committee about a desire to engage with faculty around issues that foster a more welcoming and inclusive classroom environment. We were immediately on board. This generated tremendous excitement that the students would partner with the Senate. We hope this is the beginning of many successful partnerships in the future addressing initiatives of import and substance on college campuses,” said Paul Lim, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and Immediate Past Chair of the Faculty Senate.

The Senate and VSG are partnering with Chris Purcell, Director of The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life and the Center for Teaching to develop training materials that will initially be rolled out to Vanderbilt’s four undergraduate schools. These materials are designed to challenge and engage faculty to think expansively about gender identity in their day-to-day student interactions. Purcell noted, “We envision school-level panel discussions with committed faculty who have already successfully modeled gender inclusivity in their classroom environments. We also want to balance the instructional aspect of the initiative with heartfelt communications about the transgender experience. Vanderbilt Creative Services is working with us to produce a video for this purpose.” The panel discussions will be scheduled for Arts & Science, Blair, Engineering, and Peabody initially. “These discussions will be supplemented with a Center For Teaching produced teaching guide designed to help faculty to teach inclusively and with sensitivity to a wide diversity of student identities,” noted Joe Bandy, Assistant Director at the Center for Teaching. More information will be forthcoming and the forums are targeted for a late March to early April release.

Dean Mark Bandas offered his view on some of the longer-term goals of the partnership. “We are actively investigating what we can do to afford students the opportunity to include not only their preferred names in class roster materials, but also preferred pronouns. We are looking forward to the continued interaction across all the constituencies on campus as we continue to promote Vanderbilt as a diverse, welcoming environment for all individuals, faculty, staff, and students.”

Purcell echoed Bandas’ sentiments, “The population of transgender and gender-non conforming students at Vanderbilt (and visibility in greater society) continues to increase. These individuals face tremendous barriers to success and are often subject to discrimination, harassment, and violence. I am deeply moved by VSG and Faculty Senate’s efforts to educate the greater community regarding the needs of transgender students, faculty, and staff.”