Timothy R. Bussey (they/them) joined the Kenyon community in July 2018. They are currently an associate director for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI).
Since then, Bussey has helped organize a number of different LGBTQ+ focused programming and events including the recent Kenyon Queer and Trans Studies Conference. This new biennial event provided students a space for queer and trans scholarship, activism and community building. Over 135 people attended, including 75 visitors from more than 15 different schools from as far away as New England and the Deep South. The conference welcomed a diverse audience, with 40 percent of attendees identifying as transgender or non-binary; 33 percent identifying as queer or transgender people of color; and over 10 percent identifying as people with disabilities.
Bussey will stay busy this summer with many additional plans to strengthen the LGBTQ+ community’s presence on campus. In the fall, Bussey, who holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Connecticut, will prepare to teach an “Intro to Queer Studies” class (WGS 121), the first LGBTQ+ studies course in Kenyon’s permanent course catalog.
We talked with Bussey about their experience at Kenyon so far.
My primary responsibilities are to foster LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity across Kenyon's campus with a distinct focus on support, retention and recruitment for queer and transgender students. In doing so, I chair the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, supervise the student managers for Unity House and the Crozier Center for Women, advise a number of our LGBTQ+ registered student organizations, and oversee the use of the Student LGBTQ+ Diversity Fund, among many other things. Regarding my day to day schedule, no day is the same by any means. Some days are exclusively filled with working directly with LGBTQ+ students, while others involve collaboratively crafting college-wide processes like the new gender inclusive housing process. Other duties involve facilitating on-campus events and training programs with a LGBTQ+ focus or connecting Kenyon with our community partners, like Trans Ohio and Equality Ohio, to foster relationships that can strengthen our resource network for our LGBTQ+ students.
The idea to create the Kenyon Queer and Trans Studies Conference evolved out of my initial meetings with LGBTQ+ student leaders and the LGBTQ+ Student Open Forum that the ODEI held in fall 2018. Our students relayed both their desire and need to have more LGBTQ+ specific academic opportunities. This led me both to begin planning the Kenyon Queer and Trans Studies Conference with our student leaders and to work closely with the Women's and Gender Studies Program to develop an “Intro to Queer Studies” course (WGS 121).
As for what I hope attendees took away from the conference, I hope that they recognize how a group of dedicated student volunteers can make such an inclusive and accessible event of this magnitude happen in such a successful, impactful way for our campus community. The general feedback from the conference was that our attendees really enjoyed being able to meet LGBTQ+ students from so many other universities. Given that feedback, I also hope that this inaugural conference will also inspire similar events and programs at our peer institutions across the state, so that we can better connect LGBTQ+ students in the surrounding area.
I'm most proud of three programs and initiatives in particular. First, I'm very happy with the outcome of the Kenyon Queer and Trans Studies Conference, which a group of five students and I had been planning since the end of October. Second, I'm quite proud of Kenyon partnering with Equitas Health and Trans Ohio to host the first ever gender and/or name change clinic for transgender people in Knox County. Finally, I'm also very proud of the newly developed gender inclusive housing process that the ODEI crafted in collaboration with the Office of Residential Life, particularly since this process allows for transgender students to easily share their housing needs directly with college administrators and to select housing options that best meet both their needs and wants.
I think our community has gained an even more inclusive campus climate for LGBTQ+ students, and speaking quantitatively, this is one reason why our Campus Pride Index increased a full point — from 3.5 to 4.5 out of 5 — in less than one academic year. Additionally, we've provided a number of distinct on-campus opportunities that many LGBTQ+ students at other institutions often don't have. For instance, our multi-day visit from a National Center for Transgender Equality representative in February allowed for our students to have one-on-one, personalized interactions with an expert on transgender digital activism and inclusion. Additionally, we’ve also hosted a number of fun, unique events aimed at connecting our LGBTQ+ students to one another; my personal favorite of these social events was the pride-themed glass fusing workshop, co-sponsored by the Gund Gallery and the Department of Studio Art, at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology.
I'd like prospective LGBTQ+ students to know that Kenyon has a vibrant, growing and intersectional community of queer and transgender people. The work of our student leaders, faculty, and staff is shaping something quite special here. Our LGBTQ+ student leaders are creating positive impacts for the surrounding community, such as assisting with the development of Knox County's first gender sexuality alliance (GSA) for middle and high school students; our faculty are actively teaching about LGBTQ+ issues, while also producing cutting-edge research on contemporary queer and trans issues; and our staff members are fostering impactful programs and initiatives aimed at making Kenyon even more equitable and inclusive for LGBTQ+ students. Should you choose Kenyon, you'll find that we're here for you, and you'll also find that both your needs and wants will directly shape what Kenyon does for its queer and transgender students and community.
—Betül Aydın ’21