A group of faculty and staff from three areas of the university have come together to offer a training program about LGBTQIA, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, or asexual education to students.
Rev. Jim Piszker, university chaplain, Greg Baker, director of Campus Ministry, Trina Marerro, director of the Multicultural Center, and Dr. Judy Smith, director for health and counseling centers, will train all resident assistants (RAs) on how to become allies to the LGBTQIA community during their RA in-service training on January 27.
The training program addresses how individuals who identify as LGBTQIA can find their place within the Catholic Church community.
According to Piszker, a student came to him three years ago looking for a LGBTQ program, pointing out that surrounding colleges had such programs. Consequently, Piszker created one, starting with educating faculty, staff and administration that were interested.
This is the first time for Pizsker, Baker, Marerro and Smith to reach out to the student population on LGBTQIA issues. They are working with Residence Life, using residence assistants as their target population.
“We were trying to think of a constituency [to train] that would make sense as far as students were concerned and that’s when someone came up with the idea of RAs because they have contact with students all the time,” Piszker said.
In the two hour-long presentation that the faculty gave to other faculty, staff and administration, Piszker discussed Catholic theology and its views on homosexuality; Baker talked about the pastoral, or spiritual, side of the church and how to accept people as individuals; Smith discussed the psychological components of homosexuality; and Marrero talked about sexual diversity and how to become an ally.
“It is going to be mandatory for all RAs,” said Rhina Duquela, assistant director of Residence Life and Student Conduct. “It’s is a form of diversity training. It’s also for personal awareness.”
The faculty panel presented the training to a small group of RAs and a few other students invited by the faculty in a focus group on Wednesday, Oct. 29. The faculty asked the students to evaluate the presentation to make sure it was appropriate for a student audience.
Monique Litchmore, a senior RA in sophomore area, attended the first training.
“I thought it was enjoyable,” Litchmore said. “Right now most of the allies are administrators so its nice to know students can have a student to go to.”
John Hermmann, a senior RA in McAuley Hall, will receive the training at the in-service.
“I understand why we’re doing it. We’re supposed to be trained in a variety of scenarios. However, I feel it should be a voluntary process,” Herrmann said.
Amy Bishop, president of the Mercyhurst LGBTQIA Equality Club said she was happy that faculty are conducting the training.
“It’s exciting that they’re actually fulfilling more awareness,” Bishop said.
Piszker said he is glad to be able to conduct the educational training for students.
“We’re hoping to make this a safer environment, a more pleasant environment for everybody,” said Piszker. “That’s ultimately our goal.”
Marerro is also pleased with the work they have accomplished and hopes to continue spreading awareness about the LGBTQIA community.
“I think we’ve made a great impact. My hope for the future is that we reach the North East as well as the Booker T. Washington population because we are all Mercyhurst,” Marerro said. The North East campus and Booker T. Washington Center are branches of Mercyhurst.