By: Lauren Walleser*/TRT Assistant Editor—
BOSTON, Mass.—In mid-August, Campus Pride announced the annual Campus Pride 2014 Top 50 LGBT-Friendly Colleges & Universities, highlighting the positive efforts to improve safety and academic life for LGBT students as well as the top institutions leading the way. This year’s list included three Massachusetts institutions: Amherst College, Harvard University, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
“More than ever colleges today want to be viewed as LGBT-friendly and a welcoming place for all students. LGBT students and their safety impacts the recruitment efforts of the entire campus,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and the creator of the Campus Pride Index. “Upper-level administrators are now understanding how LGBT-friendliness is key to future institutional success. This Top 50 list is proof.”
This is the first year Campus Pride has released a list of the fifty “Best of the Best.” In years past,
Campus Pride has only featured a “Top 25 List.” The listing is based on the final responses to the
Campus Pride Index, a national benchmarking tool which self-assesses LGBT-friendly policies,
programs and practices. The tool is free of charge and can be found online at www.CampusPrideIndex.org.
“For six years in a row, Campus Pride has seen an increase in the number of campuses coming out as LGBT-friendly and making notable improvements to LGBT academic life, so we decided to honor 50 campuses with our national distinction,” said Windmeyer. “Today the Campus Pride Index has over 425 campuses featured online and for the first time ever we have 56 campuses who achieved the highest 5 stars overall rating, the largest number to date.”
UNLIKE THE Princeton Review LGBT rankings, the Campus Pride Index is based in research on policy, program and practice and is conducted “for and by” LGBT experts in the field of higher education. Annually campuses update and use the Campus Pride benchmarking tool to improve LGBT life on campus. For the third year in a row, over 80 percent of participating colleges improved their ratings from the previous year. In addition, the number of campuses located in the South increased this year, as did the number of religiously-affiliated campuses and Minority Serving Institutions.
According to Windmeyer, “there is a lot to be learned” from the Top 50 campuses on this listing.
Many of these campuses are specifically addressing recruitment and academic retention efforts for LGBT students as well as concerns for transgender student safety. The Top 50 also geographically mirrors more progressive areas of the country where there has been a history of LGBT support and advocacy.
“While this Top 50 list demonstrates the positive progress to support LGBT students within higher education, we must also commit ourselves to the campuses not on the list—in rural areas,
Southern states and other types of campuses like two year colleges, Historically Black Colleges & Universities and religious-affiliated campuses—where pioneering LGBT work to create a safe learning environment is still a real struggle,” Windmeyer said.
According to Campus Pride, a college had to achieve 5 stars overall in order to be in the Top 50 this year as well as have the highest percentages across the eight LGBT-friendly benchmarks for policy, program and practice. The listing this year includes colleges with student populations from 1,600 to over 50,000, public and private schools alike. Each college listed on the Top 50 has a profile page with more details about the campus ratings online. The Top 50 list is in alphabetical order, as follows:
Central Washington University
Northern Arizona University
Oregon State University
Portland State University
San Diego State University
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Southern Oregon University
The Ohio State University
The Pennsylvania State University
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Central Florida
University of Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Maryland, College Park
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota – Duluth
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rhode Island
University of Southern California
University of Vermont
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Warren Wilson College
Washington State University
Washington University in St. Louis
Genny Beemyn, Ph.D., director of the Stonewall Center at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said this is the fourth year the school has appeared on the list.
“Stonewall and other departments have been successful in implanting many LGBTQ-supportive policies, such as creating gender-inclusive housing, covering transitioning expenses under student health insurance, enabling trans students to have their chosen name and their gender identity on campus records, and developing an LGBTQ studies program,” said Beemyn. “These kind of policies help create a supportive environment and encourage even more LGBTQ students to attend UMass.”
Eric Smith, a student staff person at the Stonewall Center, reflected on the impact the efforts UMass Amherst has taken to be LGBT-friendly and inclusive have made.
“Coming from a small town where I didn’t have my identity as a queer person validated to a place like UMass that is open and welcoming towards queer students has made me feel more comfortable in my everyday life and more confident in myself and in understanding the world around me,” Smith said.
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.
To learn more, visit CampusPride.org.
*Excerpts of this story came from a press release submitted by Campus Pride.