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New Miami website kicks up controversy

Fifth annual Pride Parade at Miami University. Photo contributed by Matt Metzler.
Fifth annual Pride Parade at Miami University. Photo contributed by Matt Metzler.

Controversy over a portion of Miami University's new website has students pointing fingers at the administration.

During the transition to the new domain, the portion of Miami's website with resources for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) community was cut from 26 pages of links, photos and contact information, to a two-paragraph blurb.

Director of University News and Communications Claire Wagner said the lack of content is not permanent, and is a result of the complex nature of the digital project, which is ongoing.

Matt Metzler, 14' Miami alumnus and former co-president of Spectrum - Miami's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) student organization - expressed his disappointment.

"I would like to think that it was not an intentional slight against the GLBTQ community here or against anyone in the Office of Diversity Affairs," Metzler said. "But I do think even if it is unintentional, it still communicates that the GLBTQ community and other diverse minority communities on campus aren't necessarily Miami's biggest priority."

In response, Metzler dragged the issue into the social media spotlight with a story published in Brickwork magazine, a progressive Oxford publication unaffiliated with the university. As one of the magazine's co-editors, he was involved in the launching of the hashtag circulating Twitter, #ErasedAtMU.

"We wanted to make a big splash on social media and hopefully extend that to, not only the GLBTQ community, but any other minority community at Miami who feel they might not be represented very well on Miami's website right now," he said.

The new Assistant Director of Diversity Affairs, Shevonne Nelson, took on her role as the coordinator of GLBTQ Services in July. Prior to her hiring, the position remained empty for a year. Though she felt Metzler's article headline and the hashtag were too strong, she recognized the issue at hand and acknowledged the need for a solution.

"Our website is lacking; I'm going to be honest," Nelson said. "But the services and the support we provide students was not and is not erased, even if our website is not fully functional."

Metzler's biggest concern is for incoming students who are unable to find the resources they need. Until yesterday, after attention was brought to the issue, the contact information of the new GLBTQ Services Coordinator was not listed on the website.

In the midst of the conflict, confusion over who is responsible for the GLBTQ Services page surfaced.

According to Director of Student Affairs Budget and Technology Tim Kresse, website creation was delegated to various offices within Student Affairs. GLBTQ Services falls under the Office of Diversity Affairs. Diversity Affairs Director, Gerald Yearwood, declined to comment on the website overhaul.

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Nelson said a meeting has been scheduled this week to make headway on the project and provide GLBTQ students with the resources they need. She is dedicated to making students feel comfortable, safe and welcome, and has made herself available since taking the position a month ago.

Assistant Director of the Armstrong Student Center (ASC) Adam Leftin, responsible for creating the ASC portion of the university website, said the focus should be turned to the work Diversity Affairs and GLBTQ Services has accomplished through the transition.

"It took so many different people at the university really stepping up to try and make sure that the students last year (during the move into the ASC and website change) received the services and events that type of student-population really needs, to feel that support; no one should feel erased."

Metzler acknowledged the past success of GLBTQ Services on Miami's campus, but encouraged the administration to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

"I would just like to communicate to [incoming students]… that there is a very strong and supportive GLBTQ community on this campus," Metzler said. "We're still really active and there are a lot of things going on this year that they'll be able to get involved in even if they can't necessarily find that information online right now."