By Devon White
Colleges across the country are looking for ways to improve the campus climate for their LGBT students, particularly in light of the recent suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. A new report by Campus Pride reveals some disappointing figures. The report on Campus Pride’s website titled, 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People, addresses the safety, visibility and advancement of the LGBT student body, staff, and faculty in our nation’s universities.
• A quarter of respondents reported experiencing harassment. More than 80 percent of those said sexual orientation was the reason.
• Just under 40 percent of transgender respondents reported harassment and 87 percent of them blamed their gender identity or expression.
• A third of those surveyed have seriously considered leaving their institution because of the challenging climate.
• More than half said they hide their sexual or gender identity to avoid intimidation.
• More than a third reported they fear for their physical safety.
LGBT people of color suffer a double whammy. They are significantly less likely to feel comfortable on campus because of racism and homophobia.
Only about 600 colleges and universities include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, according to Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, the organization that commissioned the survey. The number that includes gender identity and expression is much lower: less than 200.
Given these eye-opening statistics, what can we do at UMKC to make our campus safer for LGBT students? My answer starts with LGBT-inclusive educational programming and UMKC’s own Women’s Center and LGBTQIA Resource Center. The Women’s Center is a Safe Space that is dedicated to promoting equity and welcomes conversations on how to foster an LGBT-friendly campus. Located in the new Student Union, the LGBTQIA Resource Center advocates for gender identity and sexual orientation equality through training, resources and student development—support in these areas can make a positive difference in the campus climate for LGBT students and staff. For more ways to get involved and help make our campus safer for UMKC’s LGBT community, check out: