GLBT students at New Zealand’s largest university have a fierce advocate in Levi Joule.
As Auckland University Students’ Association’s first Queer Rights Officer (QRO), Joule is committed to making campus a “more safe and inclusive environment” for all those who identify as GLBT.
“We’ve come a long way in terms of queer rights nationally, but there’s still a long way to go and universities haven’t always been as accepting of queer students as they should be,” he says.
“For a lot of people, university is the place they come to terms with their sexuality for the first time. Just having someone on campus to make sure there’s a safe and inclusive environment for them is really important.”
Joule took office on 25 May and will serve as QRO until the end of the year.
The position has been a long time in the making – he says there have been calls for a QRO on campus “for the past 20 years”.
The position was finally approved at a Special General Meeting in October 2011, following a push by co-Women’s Rights Officer Alana Chang.
In campaigning for the position to be implemented, Chang cited the Youth ’07 report, which found that queer youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.
“I think that’s a pretty clear message that we need to make sure we’re providing proper support and representation to queer youth,” she said at the time.
After a few weeks as QRO, Joule says he is “really enjoying” his new role and looking forward to implementing the proposals on which he campaigned.
“My big proposal was to create a queer space on campus, which I hope to see by the end of the year,” he says.
“We’ve already got Womenspace and a cultural space, so a queer space would be fantastic. It would provide a safe environment for queer students and also have a lot of information for people who are in the stages of coming out and becoming comfortable in their sexualities.”
The proposed queer space would also be a way to promote awareness of GLBT events in the wider Auckland area, like the upcoming Auckland Pride festival, he says.
Joule is also heavily involved with GLBT equality campaign LegaliseLove, which has a strong presence on the University of Auckland campus.
Anyone with questions or concerns about GLBT students’ affairs is welcome to contact Joule at email@example.com.