Last week “Inside Higher Ed” published an article that starts with the sentence “The number of gay college presidents has increased rapidly in the past seven years.” What a revelation this is! Even though I have spent my entire career in academia, I have never given much thought to the life of the presidents of these institutions .. they seem so far removed from the day to day activities of teaching classes, advising students, working on research projects, planning curriculum. And, the image of most college administrators, as in virtually all other corporate or institutional administrative circles, is laden with heterosexual messages … mostly men photographed with their wives at their side.
Of course I know that “we are everywhere” but somehow it came as a bit of a surprise to see this announcement. The seven-year “increase” could simply be a function of the wave of “coming out” that has happened in our community across the board, but I suspect that it is also a real increase due in part to a greater acceptance, by those who influence the selection of folks in these positions, to someone who does not fit the heterosexual mold. The organized group, LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, has grown from 7 in 2010, to a current membership of 48! The nine presidents who formed the group included 4 women and 5 men .. a proportion of women college presidents that would be hard to find in most circles!
But the most exciting news is that this group of college presidents is hosting a conference next summer for LGBTQ academics who are interested in becoming college administrators! The conference theme will be “LGBTQ Leaders in Higher Education: Shaping Our Futures.” It will coincide with the Chicago gay pride weekend June 25-28, 2015.
I suspect that most readers of this blog do not see themselves as prospective members of this group, or even as potential attendees in the conference. But the fact that this group exists, and that fact of this conference planned for next summer, is to something major for our community! We all benefit from the presence of these trailblazers, particularly in a field that has so great an influence in the lives of young people who are completing their education! Even reading through the current list of members, and their affiliations, is an inspiring experience! So here’s to yet another breakthrough for LGBTQ visibility, and influence!