There was a sentence in the Windy City Times when I was named president at Shimer that included the phrase: “joins an elite group of.” (Here’s the article.) This was startling to me. I knew about the group — but who knew it was elite? Yes, I already knew there was an active LGBTQ group of college and university presidents — and that one or more of the founders was in Chicago. But, turns out there are more. Turns out this is a very important thing for Chicago, too often unrecognized.
Of course, as I wrote about females/women, I yearn for a day when it does not matter. But, alas, it does. (Herein you can find all the quandaries of identity politics.)
Anyway, and so, the group was born.
It was not that long ago that Biddie Martin, when named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, had the headlines written about her. She was “openly” lesbian. (For an example, click here or for some related commentary, here.) By the time Martin left for Amherst her sexual orientation was not the main cause of controversy. (For some of the background, click here.) And, then there was the Chronicle article that focused attention on the topic from the point of view of the presidents — not of the trustees or the students or . . . . others. And then, when Martin went to Amherst, there it was again, right there in the headline (here). Not only open but out. (Now, of course, Amherst is in the news for other reasons.)
The LGBTQ group focuses attention on the under-representeation of LGBTQ people in the presidency — though a tad ambivalently, right? The Chronicle of Higher Education has covered the group — here and there. And other have taken up the general theme, such as lesboprof here. The issues are complex:
Does it or does it not matter? (and the “it” here is not quite what Bill Clinton did not do.)
What is the partner’s role — since historically the partner was a wife and she (yes, she) was often required to work for the College without remuneration? (This is a topic that has been changing a lot in recent decades, but still has its important aspects.)
What does it mean for an “openly” LGBTQ person to live in the president’s house? What if she — or perhaps even more puzzling — he, were single?
What about THAT conservative donor?
Can such a president actually advocate for LGBTQ issues? Should he or she?
The world is changing. And, yet, the questions still abound. Most generally, this is the question of when identity matters and when it does not. And, it is the question of whether the act of establishing one’s identity (e.g., coming out) or creating such an organization re-instantiates difference and when/how it challenges prejudice. All in all, though, especially given the demographics of college presidents these days, inclusion is for the best — for MANY reasons. Right?
Here are some of the openly (hideous word is it not?) LGBTQ presidents in Chicago(land):
Chuck Middleton, Roosevelt University
Ray Crossman, Adler School of Psychology
Susan Henking, Shimer College
Are there more? What do you think?