The Importance of Queer Leaders in College and Beyond
Tiffany Wicks, Ed.D
The lack of queer protections in higher education poses a threat to students and faculty. The importance of representation in leadership is paramount to the well-being of college campuses and curriculum. According to a study written by Jonathan Pryor of California State University-Fresno, Queering Leadership Framework is a concept that works toward supporting queer leaders to create more safeguards for other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) students. From the history of discrimination and violence on higher education campuses, this study evaluates the importance of queer leadership in post-secondary education.
The Queer Activist Leadership framework (QAL) is defined as a concept to center queer voices, experiences, and educational leadership. QAL framework interrupts heteronormative language and narratives so that many voices can be heard within the learning environment. The concept itself seeks to understand and disrupt the power dynamics of straight, cisgender leadership that saturates strategies from leaders and seeks to put queer leaders at the table of decision making and making progress in educational spaces.
The QAL was developed through a qualitative study. A group of eight participants, a combination of staff, faculty, and a graduate assistant, were interviewed. The interviews pertained to climate for LGBTQ students and staff, perceptions of how the university handled suggestions for change, and participant efforts to advocate for centering LGBTQ individuals. Findings for the study revealed that while participants knew and some had experienced the discrimination on the rural public university campus at which the study was done, the campus responded to further progress of centering queer leadership. Furthermore, the framework was highlighted as important and potentially effective. A grassroots effort is crucial for campus climate, allyship and queer student voices. This approach allows students and staff to elevate queer leadership as part of the decision making and strategic vision of the university and its efforts to provide safer and a more inclusive environment in higher education.
Overall, center queer voices disrupt systemic oppression at college campuses. The more we elevate voices of the marginalized, the more the truth can be told. And the more truth can be told, the more others’ eyes are open to what needs to change and why it needs to be changed.