Colleges Advancing LGBTQ+ Equity for Students

Certain colleges are advancing LGBTQ+ equity for college students. Read on to find out which ones.
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Stephanie Szitanyi, Ph.D., is a university administrator and diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist. She also authored "Gender Trouble in the U.S Military." Her op-eds have appeared in The Hill, New York Daily News, and Dame Magazine. In her ...
Updated on June 1, 2023
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  • LGBTQ+ individuals face unique challenges as students at colleges where inequities in policies and programs persist.
  • Colleges advancing LGBTQ+ equity for students ensure ample resources are available for LGBTQ+ support.
  • Critical resources include Title IX offices, LGBTQ+ centers, and student organizations.
  • Students should carefully vet colleges for support services specific to their individual needs.

LGBTQ+ individuals face a unique series of challenges as college students, including harassment and increased rates of anxiety and stress. Many of these inequities are established or furthered by university facilities, programs, and policies. It's important for LGBTQ+ students to do their homework when choosing a college to find one well-suited for their needs.

Finding a college that is a good fit is important for students — not only for achieving their educational goals, but for doing so while taking care of their physical and mental wellness. Recent surveys by The Jed Foundation show that, compared to their heterosexual and binary cisgender peers, LGBTQ+ students face sizable challenges to their mental health. These are manifested through high incident rates of substance misuse, thoughts of suicide, depression, and overall challenges with completing coursework.

Below, we provide suggestions on how students can tell whether a college supports LGBTQ+ students sufficiently.

How to Tell Whether a College Supports LGBTQ+ Students

While some colleges try to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ students, others don't. Several key factors can indicate an inclusive campus environment. LGBTQ+ students should look for these when determining where to earn their degrees.

The Campus Pride Index provides a useful measure of LGBTQ+ inclusivity on college campuses in the United States. Scored on a scale of 1-5, the index provides "an overall indicator of institutional commitment to LGBTQ-inclusive policy, program, and practice" through a series of categories. These include LGBTQ policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention.

Below is a list of four colleges and universities that scored particularly high according to the Campus Pride Index.

Four Colleges and Universities That Support LGBTQ+ Students

1  The Ohio State University - Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State University also holds an overall Campus Pride score of 5 out of 5 stars. Like the University of Washington, its lowest score is 4.5 stars. Ohio State scored 4.5 stars in the categories of LGBTQ policy inclusion, LGBTQ academic life, and LGBTQ campus safety. Notably, Ohio State hosts both an LGBTQ history month and a Pride month to help build knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community. It also provides legal support for students looking to legally change their names and gender markers on university or government-issued records.

2  The University of Texas at Dallas - Richardson, Texas

While many universities in the South may have reputations that are less than LGBTQ-friendly, the University of Texas at Dallas holds an overall Campus Pride score of 5 out of 5 stars. It received 5 stars in most measurable categories, except for LGBTQ policy inclusion, LGBTQ academic life, and LGBTQ recruitment and retention efforts — all areas in which it scored 4.5 stars.

3  San Diego State University - San Diego, California

In addition to scoring a perfect 5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride Index, San Diego State University received national recognition by making the 2021 list of the Best of the Best LGBTQ-friendly campuses. In addition to its inclusive policies and procedures, SDSU offers both a major and a minor in LGBTQ+ studies. It also hosts training opportunities for students, faculty, and staff in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

4  Rutgers University - New Brunswick, New Jersey

Rutgers University holds an overall Campus Pride score of 5 out of 5 stars. The lowest score was 4.5 out of 5 stars in the policy inclusion category. The non-discrimination policies at Rutgers are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The University also allows students to change their name and gender identity on university records with ease and support.

Additional On-Campus Resources to Support LGBTQ+ Students

While the Campus Pride Index is a great measure for determining how welcoming a school is toward LGBTQ+ learners, there are other common resources available on campuses to support LGBTQ+ students. These include Title IX offices, LGBTQ+ centers, and LGBTQ+ student organizations.

Students can also look to see if physical safe spaces are available on campus. For example, they should inquire whether gender-neutral or gender-inclusive bathrooms are available in campus buildings, including dorms. Students might even want to consider whether those bathrooms are equipped with used needle disposable containers for students using injectable hormone therapy. Similarly, finding out whether gender-neutral bathrooms have free period products can provide good insight into how a university views inclusion.

Title IX

Title IX is a federal civil law prohibiting sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive funding from the federal government.

Since the law passed in 1972, both the Supreme Court and the Department of Education have broadened their interpretation of the law's reference to "sex discrimination" to include protection from sexual harassment and sexual violence. Particularly important for LGBTQ+ students, Title IX's protection from sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Though the law applies to universities across the U.S., Title IX does provide the option for a requested exemption in the case of religious institutions.

LGBTQ+ Centers

Campus LGBTQ+ centers are another resource that many students find helpful while completing their degrees. The first LGBTQ+ center appeared on a college campus in the early 1970s. Since then, that number has grown to over 200 centers across the country.

The primary mission of LGBTQ+ campus centers is to provide resources, programming, and general support services centered around gender and sexuality. Some centers and programs might be geared towards students specifically, while others may be available to the entire university community — including faculty and staff. For students, LGBTQ+ centers are a safe space for mental and physical wellness and care.

The Consortium of Higher Education Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Professionals hosts a map that shows the location of LGBTQ+ centers.

LGBTQ+ Student Organizations

LGBTQ+ student organizations are another important support resource available to students. These organizations are managed by students — not university faculty or administrators — and focus on advocating for the needs of students who identify as LGBTQ+.

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Students can consider joining such a club if they are interested in making new friends, accessing social events and educational resources not available through their courses, or gaining professional training and skills among peers who share a common interest (such as an academic major).

To find out what clubs are available on your campus, visit student services in person or online. If you do not find an LGBTQ+ student organization on your campus, consider bringing a few students together and starting one yourself.