Student success starts with high-quality education and a safe space for learning says Vincent Scarfo, the coordinator for Community College of Philadelphia's new MarcDavid LGBTQ Center on Main Campus.
"It's important to have a safe space on campus where you can be with people who understand what you are going through, and who are like-minded and where you can feel accepted," Scarfo said. "When you're not accepted or respected, it's hard to focus on your schoolwork."
The success of the College’s diverse student population is a key priority, as is retaining students to help them progress to graduation and earn a proficiency certificate.
"We live in a society where everyone is assumed to be in one of two genders and assumed to be attracted to the opposite gender," Scarfo said. "But people who fall outside the gender binary often feel lost or aren't sure where they fit in. Or, those who do know where they fit find there are people who treat them with disrespect or discriminate against them."
A welcoming campus is one that recognizes the details of comfort, safety, acceptance, cultural competence and diversity, and the latest inclusive practices, such as the usage of gender-neutral pronouns such as they.
That's why Scarfo's priority is normalizing the College's "chosen name" policy. Students' legal names are required on legal documents, such as a transcript or a diploma, but under the policy, students can choose the name that shows up on their student identification cards or college emails.
This "chosen name" option is particularly important, Scarfo said, for transgender students who may want to change their names to something that affirms their gender.
The College's international students may also want to utilize the “chosen name” policy, they noted, because some choose to temporarily use names that are easy to pronounce in English instead of their given names.
Scarfo, who started work at the College in July, also hopes to work with faculty members on further developing the Diversity Certificate program to include more information on how to be an LGBTQ ally and further explore the intersection of different identities. "I think there's a lot of willingness to learn and a lot of excitement about learning," they said.
They seek to make the library of cultural information on the LGBTQ community accessible to all. For example, many people, out of politeness, will address someone as "Sir," "Ma'am," Mr., Ms., Mrs. or Miss, but those gender-based honorifics can be uncomfortable for some, Scarfo explained. So an individual might avoid honorifics if an individual’s preferences are not known.
For more information, find the MarcDavid LGBTQ Center on Facebook, on Twitter and Instagram (@ccplgbtq) or visit the Center in Room S1-19E in the Winnet Student Life Building. To get involved with the student-run LGBTQ+ Club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.