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Robert Mizzi

As a CRC chair in queer, community, and diversity education, associate prof. Robert Mizzi aims to make positive cultural changes in organizations nationwide.

New CRC Chair hopes to make organizations more welcoming to LGBT2Q community

New CRC Chair hopes to make organizations more welcoming to LGBT2Q community

January 4, 2021 — 

What first caught his attention was the same-sex couples who don’t feel comfortable walking across campus holding hands, despite policies to the contrary.

Then there was the time when he invited a non-binary speaker to headline an event on campus. When they asked to use the facilities, he had to hunt down with them a gender-inclusive washroom as not every building on campus has one.

Now that he has been named Canada Research Chair in queer, community, and diversity education, Robert Mizzi, associate professor at U of M’s Faculty of Education, aims to confront issues like these and make positive cultural changes in organizations nationwide.

“I’m trying to promote encourage policymakers and leaders to be more inclusive, and carefully consider what policymaking and initiatives they’re creating around equity and diversity,” Mizzi said of his CRC research program.

The five-year, tier-2 CRC program is divided into three parts, beginning with a review of university campus maps in Canada. Because some campuses were built in the 1800s, they were likely not constructed with equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in mind, Mizzi said.

“I am going to ask people with marginalized identities to take a look at campus maps and ask: What forms of exclusion speak to you on this map? Where does inclusion speak to you?” Mizzi said, noting U of M’s Rainbow Mosaic offices location in the basement of the nursing building.

“What kind of message is that sending? The LGBT2Q community has moved from the closet and into the basement, and this important space is not on the campus map” Mizzi said.

 The second part of the research project promotes queer history. Organizational leaders are more likely to be aware of American queer historical figures and events, such as Harvey Milk and Stonewall, than Canadian queer history, Mizzi said.

 “It is a history of human rights. The history of the battle for HIV and AIDS medication and the history of why the recent apology from the federal government had to occur,” Mizzi said, highlighting the turning point for LGBT2Q rights sparked by the Toronto bathhouse police raids and the leadership shown by the lesbian community during the AIDS crisis.

To address this gap in knowledge, Mizzi’s research project will facilitate an artistic creation for the LGBT rights movement and determine how visual art can shape new policy and programs in organizations.

The third part of the CRC project involves Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs)— to be more inclusive, are now known as Gender Sexuality Alliances.

Commonplace in secondary schools and found in some middle-years schools, Mizzi wants to investigate GSAs within the adult-learning contexts—for example, universities, retirement homes, hospitals etc.

“Can GSAs work within these settings? Or are we only limited to youth settings—with these formations—with these activities?” Mizzi said.

Once the program is completed, Mizzi hopes the long-term impact of the work will result in efforts by administrators to better consult with the LGBT2Q community when creating equity policies in general.

“We want these policies to be proactive and to be pedagogical, not reactive,” Mizzi said. 

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