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Ohio State Workshop Helps Professors Better Engage With LGBTQ Students

Ohio Union
The Ohio State University

Controversial topics can create tension among diverse students in a classroom and sometimes stop a discussion if not handled properly. A new Ohio State University workshop focuses on ways professors and other faculty members can develop engaging discussions and inclusive environments, especially for LGBTQ students.

“So it’s a matter of paying attention to who’s in the room and thinking about the concerns of trans students,” says Appy Frykenberg, who helps direct LGBTQ initiatives at the Student Life Multicultural Center. “They’re in a developmental moment in college. They’re thinking about issues of coming out. They may be navigating being openly trans for the first time.” 

Frykenberg says it makes sense for instructors to spend some time at the start of a semester learning how students identify themselves. He says that can send a powerful message that everyone is accepted, regardless of which pronoun they use.

“What I’ve found with that practice is that it sets off a cue—LGBTQ students frequently are looking in the classroom for signs of acceptance,” Frykenberg says.

Frykenberg estimates about 11 percent of Ohio State students are LGBTQ, based upon a campus survey. He says the national average is closer to 8 percent on campuses.

He adds instructors also need to let go of their biases of LGBTQ students.

“Another bias I see a lot is the assumption that LGBTQ populations are anti-religious or non-religious, that students are not concerned with issues of faith, when in fact many of our students are concerned with issues of faith,” Frykenberg says.

Frykenberg says professors should not be afraid to address controversial writings in textbooks. He thinks it can be an opening for quality discussions.

“They want to make sure that they’re supporting the learning of that person so they can work through some of those mixed messages while also taking care of the person who just heard that bias,” Frykenberg says.

Since the 2016 election, Frykenberg says the campus community has made more requests for how to handle controversial topics in the classroom. The university's Student Life Multicultural Center has offered workshops since it started back in the 1990's.