COLUMBIA — The two had never met. But as Greg Nelson and Barbara Willis sat at a Boone Tavern table Tuesday evening, the MU employees realized they had much in common. The MU health coordinator and Office of Service Learning employee both love fishing at Bennett Springs in Lebanon, Mo. And the two Columbia residents miss living in the country.
Nelson and Willis had come to participate in an informational meeting about a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer staff and faculty association that is in the works at MU.
Social work faculty member Carol Snively, an organizer of the meeting, said that the need for such a supportive group has been discussed for years on campus. Snively organized the meeting along with MU LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Ryan Black and College of Education associate professor Alejandro Morales.
Chief Diversity Officer Roger Worthington said he felt it is wrong that there is no group addressing LGBTQ issues for MU faculty and staff. Worthington said the Chancellor’s Diversity’s Initiative will support the LGBTQ association when it establishes membership and bylaws. The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative sponsors other staff and faculty organizations, such as the Hispanic and Latin American Faculty and Staff Association.
Attendees discussed potential group names before suggesting activities for the association that should be reflected in the bylaws. Some, but not all, of the suggestions included:
- Creating support for domestic partnership benefits
- Adding “gender identity and expression” into MU’s non-discrimination policy in addition to “sexual orientation,” which is in the current policy
- Comparing the MU LGBTQ experience with those of other institutions
- Advocating exit interviews to determine the reason LGBTQ community members leave MU
While attendees said they came to the meeting to network and promote advocacy issues like domestic partnership, many also showed up for social reasons. Willis said she saw the event as an opportunity to network.
“I knew a few people, but I wanted to know more,” she said.
The group plans to meet again, but a date has not been set. They will vote on a name at that meeting or online. Those who want to be involved with association activities may contact the LGBTQ resource center at 884-7750.