Nearly 25 years ago a campus culture survey indicated that there was work to be done relative to the acceptance and inclusion of members of the LGBT+ community. NIU responded, and the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was born.
Today, the commission acts as the primary advisor to President Lisa Freeman on issues and concerns affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex individuals at NIU.
“The commission is so important because it helps guide the university in serving our LGBTQI faculty, staff and students,” Jeanne Meyer, commission chair, said. “It is really one of the few places where the issues that affect the LGBTQI community are centered. That is our only priority.”
Meyer, NIU director of student conduct, offers a unique perspective because she was a commission member while an NIU student in 1989 and now serves as the commission chair.
“Our role as a commission is to advocate for our community at the highest level,” Meyer said. “Sometimes as an individual you may feel overwhelmed or you may minimize your individual example. Whatever your struggle is we provide a place to acknowledge that struggle and hopefully make the school more accessible.”
Acting on behalf of the entire university community, the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity monitors issues relevant to sexual orientation and gender identity and makes recommendations on actions needed in areas including academic programs, student services, workplace matters, university policies and the general campus environment.
The commission collaborates with individuals and departments throughout the university and works toward ensuring a welcoming and supportive campus climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students, faculty and staff.
‘We have made strides but we have a lot of work to do and we really need help to do it,” Meyer said. “So we are actively looking for volunteers to join us.”
Each spring the Office of the President invites nominations and self-nominations of faculty, staff and students for appointment to the presidential commissions. Commission appointments are made during the summer with terms beginning in the fall.
If you are an NIU student or a faculty or staff member and are interested in joining the commission, please forward nominations, including name, title classification (faculty, instructor, supportive professional staff, operating staff, undergraduate student, graduate student), campus address, email, telephone number and a brief statement summarizing your qualifications and desire to serve, to Pat Erickson, Office of the University Council, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Self-nominations are also acceptable.