Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Tara Cavanaugh
With more youth speaking out about LGBT rights and creating GSAs in their high schools and colleges, universities are realizing the importance of creating gay-friendly campuses. Michigan schools are also making LGBT-inclusive environments, and 14 of them are ranked on a recent Campus Pride Index.
The Campus Climate Index Survey is a project of Campus Pride, a national nonprofit that assists student groups and leaders who want to create more inclusive campuses.
The index rates schools on eight criteria that promote LGBT-friendly campuses: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. The survey consists of 55 questions covering those eight areas in depth; the schools then self-report on the areas and Campus Pride verifies their responses.
Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride and the founder of the Campus Pride Index, said when the index first came out in 2007, only 30 universities participated. Nearly 300 were ranked in the 2011 index.
“Colleges have to want to take the assessment,” he said. “We don’t force them to do it. We don’t (fill the survey out) for them.”
Not only is participation voluntary, but so is being listed in the public index, Windmeyer said.
“We don’t put any pressure on campuses to have to come out, just by taking the assessment. We did that as a way to (encourage) campuses that were maybe more conservative, or that we still wanted them to have the value of taking the assessment. We still have their data, and we know as an organization which colleges those are, but the general public does not.”
Each school that participates receives a 14-page individualized report, which can be used to provide a roadmap for improvement – and to convince administrators to support and fund programs that support LGBT students.
Shannon Dettore, the director of the Office of LGBTQ Services at Central Michigan University, was less than pleased with the school’s 2.5 star ranking. The highest rating is 5 stars.
“There’s definitely things that the index says our campus doesn’t have, that we actually do have, and so that’s kind of where I think the number is a little different,” Dettore said, noting the school offers trainings to faculty and staff around sexual identity and gender identity.
Dettore also said that the index doesn’t take into account all of the programs that will soon be implemented: “We definitely had a lot of room to grow, so now we’re working and really making strides.”
Dettore is creating a mentoring program that connects LGBT student teachers with LGBT professional teachers. She’s also planning a “first year experience” class specifically for LGBT students. A current first-year-experience class is offered to CMU freshmen.
Part of the benefit of taking part in the index is also seeing what other schools are doing to promote LGBT inclusion. Dettore said CMU administration often asks her what other schools are doing in that area. “So we have to have those conversations – are we going to be the benchmark school in Michigan, or do we need to follow after what these other schools have done?” she asked.
Windemeyer said Campus Pride wants the index to help schools connect with and learn from one another. “Our whole philosophy was by highlighting the positive campuses, that are doing positive work, we can bring many other campuses out of the closet, to do more LGBT-inclusive work,” he said.
“Any campus that’s on the index, whether they have one star or five stars, deserves praise for the fact that they want to become better,” Windmeyer said. “They have taken the time to say: we may not be perfect but we want to become better.
“Campuses that are not part of the index have chosen to say: we don’t know how well we’re doing, we don’t have the time to take this index, LGBT students aren’t important.”
Windmeyer said the index survey will likely see some changes in the next few years, including additional questions about how the school accommodates transgender students. He said 33 schools received 5-star ratings this year, which could mean that the index should encourage schools to reach even higher standards.
“The index was never meant to be static,” Windmeyer said. “We always knew that things change and that … the questions that we had would be good for five years, to establish a bar of expectations, but ultimately we’d have to raise that bar.”
How does your school rate?
Regardless of where these 14 schools are listed, it is good that they chose to participate in the annual Campus Pride Index Survey, said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and founder of the Campus Pride Index. Windmeyer also said that schools that receive a 5-star rating are in the 90th percentile – so they still have room for improvement, too.
Lawrence Technological University in Southfield: 1
Grand Rapids Community College: 1.5
Alma College: 2
Lansing Community College: 2
University of Michigan – Flint: 2
Central Michigan University: 2.5
University of Michigan -Dearborn: 3
Michigan Technological University in Houghton: 3
Northern Michigan University: 3
Kalamazoo College: 3.5
Grand Valley State University: 4.5 stars
Western Michigan University: 4.5
Eastern Michigan University: 4.5
University of Michigan: 5
State schools team up to support LGBT students: The Michigan Higher Education Consortium for Equality
The Michigan Higher Education Consortium for Equality is a group of schools that support one another as they work toward creating LGBT-inclusive campuses.
The Arcus Foundation funds the project, which began as a partnership between the University of Michigan and Grand Valley State University. The project is in its second year, and eight schools have jumped on board so far: Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Western Michigan University, GVSU and U-M’s Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses.
One of the consortium’s chief goals is getting all Michigan universities to earn a 5-star rating on the Campus Pride Index. Another goal is to create a unified voice of universities who support LGBT equality.
Colette Seguin Beighley, director of GVSU’s LGBT Resource Center, said universities do not need to have LGBT programming in order to participate in the consortium. “We recognize that each institution faces its own challenges, and there’s not a cookie cutter way of getting there,” she said. “But they all need support and can benefit from the experience of other centers.”
For more information about the consortium, go online to http://www.miconsortium.org.