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Accrediting Council Votes to Include Sexual Orientation In Teaching Standard   

Chcago (Sept. 5, 2003)---The Accrediting Council of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) Friday voted to add sexual orientation to race, ethnicity and gender in its revised diversity standards for schools  seeking accreditation or re-accreditation. The new provision applies specifically to the curriculum portion of the standards.

The landmark decision, at the Council's semi-annual meeting in Chicago, is part of a sweeping revision of the accreditation standards that began two years ago. The new standards, which condense the existing 12 Standards to just 9, becomes effective for schools preparing for accrediting visits as of September, 2004. 

The interim will allow time for institutions to study and analyze the revision so as to develop methods of conforming to the new guidelines. 

The sexual orientation provision was added to the Diversity and Inclusiveness Standard (formerly Standard 12, now to be Standard 3), specifically in the curriculum "indicator." It reads: "The unit's curriculum fosters understanding of issues and perspectives that are inclusive in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation.

This means that schools seeking accreditation or reaccreditation will be expected to provide evidence of conforming to the Standard by including sexual orientation issues in a written plan, and in a variety of other ways such as in syllabi and  course materials.

The impetus for the change got underway four years ago when Annenberg's SOIN Program contacted the Council president, urging a discussion about inclusion of sexual orientation in the Standards. A year later, SOIN held a large workshop of educators and practitioner journalists at the 2001 AEJMC Convention focusing on the emerging importance of gay issues in media and the need for students to be informed about these topics. 

Attending was Lana Rakow, a professor at
the Unviersity of North Dakota, and then-chair of the Teaching Standards Committee. Rakow subsequently campaigned successfully to include sexual orientation in  the draft version of the new Diversity Standard. 

The draft of new Standards circulated for the next two years, soliciting comment from educators, administrators and practitioners. When it appeared that support for the sexual orientation provision might be shaky, SOIN, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and other supporters lobbied for its retention. 

On Friday, Sept. 5, with NLGJA representative Robert Dodge attending as a new voting member of the Accrediting Council, the clause went through without comment or opposition.

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