Dean Groves recognized for LGBT leadership
Equality Virginia names Groves recipient of 6th annual OUTstanding Virginians Award
Equality Virginia named Dean of Students Allen Groves a recipient of the sixth annual OUTstanding Virginians award last Wednesday, marking the group’s 25th anniversary.
A committee comprised of Equality Virginia staff members, board members and active LGBT individuals chose Groves as one of nine award beneficiaries.
“I see myself as a University leader who happens to be gay,” Groves said in an email. “I have always tried to be a good role model to others in terms of being comfortable in my own skin while also being unafraid to challenge stereotypes or preconception.”
Equality Virginia is an education, outreach and advocacy group for Virginia’s LGBT population. The honor recognizes individuals “who represent Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community with distinction and who are committed to moving the LGBT community forward,” according to the press release.
The organization’s initial decision in 2009 to acknowledge singular leaders in the LGBT community represents “a whole movement of living ‘out,’” Equality Virginia spokesperson Kirsten Bokenkamp said.
“Statistics show that if you know somebody that is LGBT, you personally are going to be more accepting and want to work for the rights of the LGBT community,” Bokenkamp said. “So the more people that live authentically [as] who they are … the closer we move towards equality,”
Equality Virginia identified three key circumstances of his various accomplishments in both the University and LGBT communities which distinguished Groves in the selection process: his presence in the national fraternity movement, his response to the issue of workplace discrimination and his social media presence.
In 2004, Groves was openly criticized for his decision to run for international president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
“A very senior alumnus approached me the night before and told me to withdraw from consideration because of my sexual orientation,” Groves said in an interview with Equality Virginia. “‘Someone like you can’t be president,’ he said.”
Groves proceeded to win the office position the following day and, after a markedly successful term as international president, accepted an apology from the affronting alumnus.
“The fact that I am a gay man is perhaps significant in terms of breaking barriers or challenging stereotypes, but I am involved because I believe in the value of fraternity, not because I am gay,” Groves said.
In 2012, Groves also became Chairman of the North-American Interfraternity Conference.
Equality Virginia also credited Groves for his response to a 2009 memo from then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s which said state universities had no obligation to extend non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation.
“Nothing anyone says will make U.Va. reject its core value of nondiscrimination,” Groves said in a meeting at the time.
Groves continues to endorse this statement.
“I do not believe that the University would treat a student differently because of his or her sexual orientation, nor do I believe that an employee would be fired, not hired or not receive a promotion because of anti-gay animus,” he said. “The University is handicapped by current state law in terms of its ability to offer LGBT employees partner or spousal benefits, for example, but that isn’t a result of U.Va. lacking a commitment to nondiscrimination.”
Equality Virginia noted a Valentine’s Day tweet by a capella ensemble the Virginia Gentlemen, “a big shout-out to all the VG girlfriends and boyfriends!”
Groves responded with a note, “Thanks for this tweet — it gives me great hope for the future.”
“It is important for LGBT people at the University to be comfortable being leaders who happen to be LGBT,” Groves said. “Be comfortable in your skin while also being terrific at what you do. The reason that there has been so much change in public opinion around an issue like marriage equality is the willingness of LGBT individuals to be open with family, friends and colleagues regarding their lives.”
Groves said there is room for improvement in acceptance and equality at the University, such as continued shouting of “not gay” in the rendition of the “Good Ol’ Song,” but said he has confidence in the University community.
“I have great hope for the generation that is my students,” Groves said.
The 2014 OUTstanding Virginians will be formally recognized at Equality Virginia’s Commonwealth Dinner Saturday, April 5.