Do LGBTIQ audits work in university settings?

Year: 2021

Author: Denison, Erik

Type of paper: Symposium

Audits are regularly used within the educational sector to ensure compliance with regulations and curricula. There has been suggestion that audits may be useful to drive meaningful action in school sport settings to stop harmful homophobic behaviours and ensure LGBT people feel safe and included. The study investigated the effects of a diversity and inclusion in sport audit tool introduced by a large Australian public university. Despite recent improvements in societal attitudes, LGBT young people continue to be at high risk, relative to other populations, of experiencing physical, psychological, and verbal abuse in sport settings. However, comprehensive international reviews of research by the European Union and World Health Organisation have found young people of all genders and sexualities are regularly targeted with homophobic and sexist language in school sport settings. This language is typically directed towards young people who are not conforming to traditional male and female gender norms. United Nations agencies have outlined the urgent need for effective, evidence-based interventions to stop these harmful behaviours. Exposure is a key risk factor for self-harm and suicidality for both LGBT and heterosexual youth and deters LGBT youth from participation in sport. These experiences have also been found to mitigate any psychosocial and cognitive benefits which students receive from playing on a school sport team. A lack of action on homophobic behaviours and effort by student sport leaders to promote the inclusion of LGBT peers led university administrators to introduce a diversity and inclusion audit tool. Student leaders were required to complete the audit at the start of the school year.  It asked questions about steps taken to promote a welcoming and inclusive culture and awareness of regulations that prohibit homophobic and other discriminatory behaviours. The paper describes the audit tool and reports an analysis of data from surveys (N = 735) completed by athletes at 35 sport team/clubs which represent the university. Primary outcomes of interest were the use of homophobic language and the representation of LGBT sport participants. Survey data was collected twice over two years. Both surveys were conducted two months after student leaders had completed the audit. The study found no changes to the homophobic language used by athletes and no change in the proportion of gay or bisexual males or trans and gender diverse participants. In contrast, there was a significant increase in the proportion of lesbian and bisexual athletes playing football sports, but this was counter balanced by an even larger decreases of representation in other sports. The findings suggest the diversity audits had no effect on the efforts by student leaders to promote an inclusive sport culture and comply with regulations which prohibit discriminatory behaviours and practices. The paper discusses the implications of these findings. It concludes with evidence and theory-based recommendations for alternative interventions which may be more effective to these issues in educational sport settings, including the use of peer-to-peer education and bystander training.