BY AJ TRAGER
It’s the first week of school for students in the state and across the country and by Thanksgiving break, many high school students will be applying for their undergraduate programs.
A lot goes into choosing a university – the class listings and graduate programs, available on and off campus resources, diversity of the student body, location, proximity to friends and family and, of course, price. In addition, for many students who identify as LGBTQ the way a university treats and respects LGBTQ students greatly factors into which program they will apply to and enroll in.
Campus Pride, a 501(c)(3) comprised of student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBTQ students, recently released its 2016 Best of the Best Top 30 List of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities with no Michigan schools listed.
The organization creates multiple college lists from the Best of the Best distinction to the Shame List, but is best known for its Campus Pride Index, which consists of over 230 colleges across the nation that have LGBTQ-friendly and inclusive practices. None of the 12 Michigan universities listed in its Campus Pride Index received the highest percentage in the Campus Pride score of LGBTQ-friendly benchmarks for policies, programs and practices and therefore did not qualify for the organization’s Best of the Best nod.
Some schools that are included in the top 30 this year include Cornell University in New York with 4.5/5 stars, Claremont in California with 5/5 stars, Portland State University in Oregon with 4.5/5 stars and the University of Illinois at Chicago with 4.5/5 stars.
“Prospective students and their families expect colleges to be LGBTQ-friendly. They want to know what LGBTQ programs, services and resources are available on the campus – and which are the ‘Best of the Best,'” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “Now more than ever, there are colleges that are recruiting LGBTQ youth – and they are investing in a campus that is fully supportive of LGBTQ students.”
According to Windmeyer, “there is a lot to find for LGBTQ life at these campuses.” Many of them are specifically addressing recruitment and academic retention efforts for LGBTQ students as well as concerns for transgender student safety. Many of these colleges house an LGBTQ student organization which addresses LGBTQ concerns, creates safe spaces and designs LGBTQ student activities and volunteer opportunities.
Campus Pride Shame List
Campus Pride’s Shame list identifies the absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ youth in the U.S. that openly discriminate against LGBTQ students and have requested Title IX exemptions. Two Michigan colleges made this list.
Andrews University in Berrien Springs made the Shame List for opposing student advocacy for LGBTQ homeless youth, along with banning same-sex relationships and official LGBTQ student groups.
Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, also made the Shame List because it holds an exemption to Title IX, allowing the college to discriminate against its students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy or having an abortion while still receiving federal funds.
“Religion-based bigotry is careless and life-threatening,” Windmeyer said. “LGBTQ young people face high rates of harassment and violence, especially our trans youth and LGBTQ youth of color. The schools on this list openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and many of these schools have requested or received Title IX exemptions for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban LGBTQ youth from campus. It is shameful and wrong.”
Campus Pride created the Shame List in order to call out the harmful and shameful acts of religion-based prejudice and bigotry.
“Families and young people deserve to know that this list of schools are the worst for LGBTQ youth. They are not loving, welcoming, safe spaces to live, learn and grow – and nobody wants to go to a college that openly discriminates against anyone,” Windmeyer said.
Students who find their campus on the Shame List are encouraged to reach out to Campus Pride and consider filing a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Prospective students and families who are looking for LGBTQ-friendly campuses are encouraged to check out the Campus Pride Index, a free online search database.
The twelve Michigan colleges listed in the Pride Index include: University of Michigan-Dearborn, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Oakland University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technical University, Washtenaw Community College, Delta College, University of Michigan-Flint, Northern Michigan University and Grand Rapids Community College.
Find each university profile, the Shame List and more at http://www.campusprideindex.org.