Wednesday, April 1, 2009

LGBTQ Community Excluded from Service Learning at Penn State Harrisburg

LGBTQ Community Excluded from Service Learning at Penn State Harrisburg

from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/genderqueerrevolution/

Posted by: "bluemermaidbythesea" bluemermaidbythesea@yahoo.com bluemermaidbythesea
Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:10 pm (PDT)

as taken from http://communitypsychologyatpsh.blogspot.com/
Part of the requirements to obtain my degree at Penn State of Harrisburg was the opportunity to engage in Community Service Learning (CSL). In order to complete this task the Community Psychology program offers students the Community Service Learning Handbook which compiles an "updated listing of opportunities for PSH students to apply the skills and knowledge they are gaining in their classes to make a contribution in the larger community. This handbook is an effort to help students find interesting and rewarding community service opportunities in the hope that more students will become involved with community service learning."
http://www.hbg.psu.edu/bsed/handbooks/behSci/ccar_handbook.pdf

While working as a case manager in Harrisburg I found this book to be a great resource for heterosexual individuals, but the handbook offers little opportunity for LGBTQ students who wish to empower the LGBTQ community. Because the handbook does not list organizations that specifically service Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities in Central Pa., LGBTQ students have to take risk in order to offer an opportunity to "apply the skills and knowledge they are gaining in their classes to make a contribution in…" the LGBTQ community. I call this a "risk" because LGBTQ students are not protected under law from discrimination in Central Pa. and by asking to contribute to the LGBTQ community they risk facing legal discrimination.

I do admit groups such as the ACLU who offer some services to the LGBT community are listed in this handbook, but there are many specific community organizations (such as Common Roads or Stone Wall Democrats) that are not included. As a lesbian student I had noticed this and mentioned it during a class instructed by the handbook's creator Dr. Ken Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham was also a member of my thesis committee while completing the Queer Studies project I struggled with due to lack of equal academic opportunity and discrimination.

The handbook describes CSL as

Community Service Learning (CSL) is a learning approach that integrates the academic
curriculum with active, relevant, socially constructive community service. Community members and university faculty and students work together as equals, in ways that are mutually determined and mutually beneficial. CSL combines community service to meet human or societal needs with concepts, theories, knowledge and skills learned in the classroom. This combination is facilitated through conscious critical reflection by students. CSL is based upon principles of:
• Democracy
• Civic participation
• Egalitarianism
• Reciprocity

While the above statement is great, the handbook (and my program) failed to include the need to cultivate a pluralistic and multicultural learning approach which should be inclusive of sexual minorities who identify within the paradigm of LGBTQ. As a student in the CP&SC program it was always disappointing to me that the last minority group to not have equal rights in Pa (or the United States) was greatly ignored in a program focused on social justice.

Under the section of the Handbook entitled "Suggested Agreements for Participants / The Service Agency Agrees to: a professional service-learning environment that is free from sexual harassment and/or discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, gender or handicap." Protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression are not listed which empowers unsafe conditions for LGBTQ students and ignores Penn State's own policies on discrimination.

The handbook can be found at
http://www.hbg.psu.edu/bsed/handbooks/behSci/ccar_handbook.pdf

The handbook was last up dated in 2006 and was created by Ken Cunningham an Associate Professor in the Community Psychology & Social Change graduate program. Dr. Cunningham is a self described advocate for students and encourages students to engage themselves in social justice related community activities.

As a former graduate student in the CP&SC program I am requesting that:

1. The CP&SC program (and all other academic programs that use the "Community Service Learning Handbook at Penn State Harrisburg" modify the "Suggested Agreements for Participants / The Service Agency Agrees to: a professional service-learning environment that is free from sexual harassment and/or discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, gender or handicap." To reflect the policies of Penn State University to include protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.

2. The individual/s (and department) responsible for creating this handbook reach out to various LGBTQ community organizations and groups by kindly requesting the privilege to offer services to the LGBTQ community of Central Pa. This will include listing these agencies and organizations within the handbook.

By taking these two small and inclusive actions listed above, Penn State Harrisburg and the Social Sciences Dept. would be empowering the LGBTQ community within the university (and community of Central Pa.) reflecting the true moral values of
"• Democracy • Civic participation • Egalitarianism • Reciprocity" as are listed in the handbook.

As an individual who experiences the stigmatization and marginalization of being a sexual minority, I believe the steps towards inclusion listed above will help to create positive visibility and support for a community which is made invisible and remains unsupported and ignored by Community Psychology and the movement towards social equality in education, employment, housing, and in marriage and family law.

For more information on services for LGBTQ people of Central Pa. visit:
http://www.centralpalgbtcenter.org/
Take Action by contacting PSH and requesting them to make the changes listed above!!! Thanks!!!

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