Campus Pride: 180 U.S. College Campuses “Unsafe” for LGBTQ+ Students

portrait of Matthew Arrojas
by Matthew Arrojas

Published on October 27, 2021 · Updated on November 10, 2021

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Campus Pride: 180 U.S. College Campuses “Unsafe” for LGBTQ+ Students


The "absolute worst, most unsafe campuses" for LGBTQ+ learners are growing in number, according to national nonprofit advocacy group Campus Pride.

Campus Pride's sixth annual "Worst List" expanded this year to include 180 colleges and universities — 50 more than the 2020 edition. This marks the largest single-year expansion since Campus Pride began publishing its "Worst List" in 2015.

“Campus Pride was founded 20 years ago with a vision of campuses and a society free of anti-LGBTQ prejudice, bigotry, and hate,” Campus Pride founder and executive director Shane Windmeyer said in a statement. “And while much progress has been made since then, clearly there remains a lot more work to do as we develop and train future leaders to create safer, more inclusive communities on campuses.”

Title IX Religious Exemptions Drive Growth of ‘Worst List’

According to Campus Pride, many colleges on the 2021 list either received or applied for a religious exemption to Title IX. Title IX, a federal law, protects students in federally funded schools and educational programs from discrimination on the basis of sex.

What Is Title IX and Why Does It Matter?

Schools may apply for religious exemption from Title IX to enact discriminatory policies without losing federal funding, according to Campus Pride. Doing so is the most common reason for a school to make the "Worst List."

Under the Obama administration, religious schools had to submit a letter outlining why they needed an exemption to Title IX. The Trump administration changed this rule so religious schools were automatically exempt.

This year, the Biden administration published lists of schools that applied for Title IX religious exemptions during the Trump administration, Windmeyer said in a statement. This information, not previously available to the public, contributed to this year's expanded "Worst List," according to Windmeyer

The Biden administration hasn’t clarified or reinstated a requirement for religious schools to apply for Title IX exemption, Windmeyer said in the statement.

Institutions Nationwide Deemed ‘Unsafe’ for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride’s "Worst List" includes campuses of varying sizes across the country.

California led the nation with 20 college campuses deemed "unsafe." Texas placed second, with 17 campuses making the list.

Of the list's 180 campuses, 52 schools reported student enrollments of 1,000 or fewer. Nineteen campuses enrolled 5,000 or more students.

The five largest universities to make the list were:

Choosing an inclusive college or university is vital for many prospective students. Nearly one-quarter of all reported hate crimes at postsecondary institutions are related to sexual orientation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.


Feature Image: Vladimir Vladimirov / E+ / Getty Images

Title IX protects students from sex discrimination on campus. Learn about the history of Title IX, what the law prohibits, and how it impacts sports. LGBTQ+ students shape the HBCU landscape. Dig into the experiences of LGBTQ+ students, and learn how to support inclusive practices at HBCUs. Learn about the five factors to consider when choosing an LGBTQ+-friendly college, from campus support and advocacy programs to gender-inclusive facilities.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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