Written by Samantha Kelleher, Junior, University of South Florida
Luckily, my university, the University of South Florida, the relationship with Higher Education and the LGBTQ+ community is very solid and tight knit. I myself, as a bisexual, female student and a Resident Assistant feel very supported and protected at my university.
Unfortunately, at other universities that is not the case. Recently, Erskine College in South Carolina banned homosexuality on their college campus. This all came about when two male volleyball players at the school came out as gay. This scandal has sparked a huge debate already, and whether or not the private school has the right to blatantly discriminate against a population of students. When I first read about this instance, I can honestly say that I was very surprised. Something like this is basically unheard of at the University of South Florida, but the reality is that instances like this happen all the time all around the country and world.
Of course, the majority of colleges and universities do not have policies like Erskine does, but it is important to know the issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces in places where you would think inclusivity is a value and virtue. Universities are businesses, and part of being a business is creating an inclusive and safe environment for all students. Fact: 1/3 of LGBTQ+ individuals have considered leaving their college or university because of the environment of the institution. If colleges and universities want to continue to be successful, they need to make everyone feel safe and included.
Campus Pride has a great resource called the Campus Pride Index. This allows Campus Pride to give colleges and universities ratings based on LGBTQ+ friendly aspects. This is assessed in eight different areas: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residential life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention. These rating are a good way to see where universities stand when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues and I recommend everyone to check it out!
I am going on my third year as a Resident Assistant, and it has really allowed me to see my passion for college students and Higher Education. A lot of my supervisors and superiors in housing are a part of the LGBTQ+ community so it is comforting knowing that my university cares, and I can relay what I know and how I feel to my residents to make their experience more worthwhile. Other institutions need to stop putting the burden of LGBTQ+ issues on the LGBTQ+ community solely, and start taking some of the responsibility themselves. Higher education is not just about the academics, but it is also about educating others in who they are and how they fit into this crazy world of ours.
Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.