Dear Dr. Frenk: The University of Miami needs to do more for LGBTQ students

Welcome, Dr. Frenk! You are about to discover why there is nothing greater than being a Miami Hurricane. We are bold, we are courageous, and we never shy away from a fight. We bleed orange and green.

I know you’re brand new to campus and perhaps still just trying to figure out what exactly those funny-looking ducks walking around the lake are (I know that’s how I spent my first few days!), but I hope you’ll let me take a few minutes of your time.

The University of Miami desperately needs you to lead on LGBTQ campus issues. Because when it comes to providing LGBTQ Canes with the policies and resources they need and deserve, we have not been bold; we have not been courageous; and we need to no longer shy away from the fight.

Right now, the University of Miami is not an LGBTQ-friendly institution. I could mince words, but it’s the truth. And when you love something like I love UM, sometimes you have to be willing to be honest.

Despite monumental changes in American society toward the LGBTQ community over the past few decades, very little has been done at the University of Miami during that time. While marriage rights have swept across the country and the White House illuminated in a splash of rainbow color, nothing of consequence has been accomplished institutionally at UM.

We still discriminate against trans* students. We do not provide any dedicated professional resources. And our hesitation toward progress has left LGBTQ Canes feeling unsafe in their own home.

But don’t just take my word for it:

· Last year, in a University-conducted survey, 3 in 10 LGBTQ students at UM indicated that they do not feel safe while on campus.

· UM still lacks any comprehensive policy toward trans* students, meaning that despite non-discrimination policies, it is often in fact university policy to discriminate against them.

· UM is one of only five top 50 universities without a resource center or any dedicated professional resources for LGBTQ students, and one of only 15 without a gender-neutral housing option.

· And when scored by the non-profit organization Campus Pride last year, UM came up dead last among the top 50 schools scored.

Do not get me wrong: The students, faculty, and staff of the University of Miami are some of the most accepting and supportive you will find. But the institution, its policies, and its programs have left LGBTQ Canes feeling forgotten.

It is true, as I am sure you will hear, that over the past several months a number of small, incremental changes have been made. But checking boxes, while it may improve our Campus Pride score, will do little to change the culture that has left nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ students fearful for their safety.

We need to do more. A lot more.

Over the past few decades, the University of Miami — the most diverse university community in the country — has fallen behind. And we look to you, our new bold, courageous leader, to tell us that you’ll help us lead once again. To tell us that an LGBTQ resource center, comprehensive trans* policies, and a gender-neutral housing option will be on your list of priorities.

So please, as you settle into your new home and learn why it is so great to be a Miami Hurricane, do not forget the LGBTQ Canes for whom there is still so much to do.

We are counting on []_[].

Ryan Aquilina
Class of 2012

A copy of this open letter to the University of Miami’s incoming president was emailed to Dr. Julio Frenk on August 18, 2015.

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