The Ties That Bind?

Campus Pride lists top 7 LGBT-Friendly Religiously Affiliated Universities

Reprinted with permission from The Washington Blade (2013).

Religiously affiliated universities often are not associated with LGBTQ friendliness or visibility. Recent studies by Campus Pride reveal, however, that more and more Catholic and Protestant universities are actively seeking to improve the campus climate for their LGBTQ students.

Campus Pride, the nation’s leading non-profit that advocates for LGBTQ acceptance on college campuses, compiles an extensive “Campus Climate Index” that universities can use free of charge to gauge their LGBTQ-friendliness. LGBTQ campus housing and LGBTQ retention rates are among the many criteria schools are judged by. Since the index’s creation in 2007, many religious universities have looked to Campus Pride for self-assessment.

“We have encouraged religiously affiliated campuses to participate and find out what they’re doing well. You see so much momentum around faith, spirituality and being LGBTQ, and young people have been leading the way on college campuses,” says Shane Windmeyer, co-founder and executive director of Campus Pride. “Even some of the staunchest conservative campuses, like Notre Dame, finally have some sort of LGBTQ recognition of their groups. These seven campuses are perfect examples of different religiously affiliated universities that are doing really good work.”

The following are Campus Pride’s seven most LGBTQ-Friendly Religiously Affiliated Universities, which all scored at least four out of five stars on the Campus Climate Index:

  • Agnes Scott College: 4.5 stars; Presbyterian-affiliated women’s college in Decatur, Ga.; 904 undergraduates; has “LGBTQIQ Safe Zone Committee”
  • Baldwin-Wallace College: 4 stars; Methodist-affiliated private, liberal arts college in Berea, Ohio; total enrollment of 4,177; has Office of GLBT Services and “Allies” student group
  • Elmhurst College: 4 stars; Affiliated with the United Church of Christ, located in Elmhurst, Ill.; 3,052 undergraduates; first American college to add optional LGBT identity question on applications
  • Georgetown University: 4 stars; Catholic and Jesuit university in Washington; 17,130 students total; has LGBTQ resource center
  • Hamline University: 4.5 stars; Methodist-affiliated university in St. Paul, Minn,; 1,866 undergraduate enrollment; has faculty and student-run “Safe Zone Network”
  • Macalester College: 5 stars; Presbyterian affiliation, located in St. Paul, Minn.; 2,070 students; has “all gender” bathrooms, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, Office of Multicultural Life and an “Allies Project Training” group
  • Muhlenberg College: 4.5 Stars; Lutheran-affiliated liberal arts college, located in Allentown, Penn.: 2,225 undergraduates; has gay-straight alliance, counseling services specifically for LGBT students

The seven colleges and universities listed have different levels of adherence to their religious affiliations. Macalester College, for example, now has a very tenuous relationship with Presbyterianism.

“Most students don’t even realize that we are Presbyterian in nature. It’s actually quite a secular place, so that has probably made it easier (for LGBTQ students),” says Chris MacDonald-Dennis, Macalester College’s Dean of Multicultural Life. “We have always been known as very, very gay friendly. A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of schools are religiously affiliated, especially mainline Protestant ones. I would say we probably are similar to a lot of other religiously affiliated schools.”

Even if “religiously affiliated” can be a relative term, Campus Pride still recognizes these seven schools as having improved in their approaches to LGBTQ student life over the past few years.

“The seven we chose are the seven that are highest rated among the religiously affiliated universities. They have participated since 2007, and every year they come back and improve something,” Windmeyer says. “Now all seven have room for improvement, but are true examples of campuses that really have taken responsibility for their LGBTQ students.”

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