UI among top LGBT friendly schools

By Matthew Richardson

The Advocate College Guide, the first-of-its-kind guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students, named the University in its top 100 campuses for LGBT students this year.

The guide used quotes from LGBT students and an objective 20 point scale to determine each campuses’ climate for LGBT students.

The scale includes factors like the number of LGBT educational events on campus, if domestic partner benefits are extended to same-sex couples and the presence of an LGBT resource office.

The most beneficial resource to University students is the Office of LGBT Concerns, said Liz Wagner, senior in LAS and political co-chair of PRIDE, an organization for gay and allied students.

The guide also cites the progressiveness of the administration as one of the key factors for the University’s listing.

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    According to the guide, the University has included sexual orientation in the nondiscrimination policy since 1993, and added gender identity one year ago.

    Even with budget reductions across campus, the Office of LGBT Concerns received additional funds to pay the salary for a full time director and an assistant director.

    “All these LGBT achievements are possible because of amazing allies- from the chancellor to the provost to the faculty,” the guide said.

    Curt McKay, Director of the Office of LGBT Resources is also thankful for University faculty.

    “The fact that a top campus administration has actually spent money, giving us two full-time staff instead of one, giving us programming money is wonderful,” McKay said.

    The institution itself isn’t the only thing working to make the campus welcoming; the guide cites that students are doing their part as well.

    This past year, University students founded the first-ever Greek Allies group in the country.

    The group is for LGBT fraternity and sorority straight allies in the country. Such efforts put this campus out in front when it comes to strong, diverse student coalitions, the guide said.

    “With the presence of student ally groups in the Asian American Student Association, and La Casa Cultural Latina, they’re able to see that there’s support for them in their own community if they’re LGBT,” McKay said.

    The Advocate College Guide scored the University 16 out of 20 points. But the staff in the office of LGBT Concerns doesn’t agree with all of the guide’s criteria. One criterion is to offer LGBT housing options/themes.

    McKay feels this might be detrimental to campus.

    “I think this may not be a good idea, it provides a way of ghettoizing our students and isolating them from the rest of campus, so that they won’t have to deal with them,” he said.

    Even still, considering the University’s considerable progressiveness in the area, there is still a great deal to do making the campus more LGBT friendly.

    “There’s been talk for years about the LGBT Office getting its own house, like any of the cultural houses on campus,” Wagner said.

    The University could improve the campus climate for LGBT students through better faculty recruitment as well.

    “Actively recruiting LGBT faculty is important, because it’s definitely helpful to LGBT students to see people like themselves,” McKay said.

    But the University hasn’t ceased its strides in improving campus life for LGBT students.

    Recently the Chancellor’s LGBT advisory committee did a campus climate study, concerning the campuses’ feeling towards LGBT students. University Housing is also reviewing the policy of separating males and females, which could make a transgender student uncomfortable.

    However, according to Assistant Director of the Office for LGBT Concerns, Khristian Kemp-DeLisser, there is still a feeling that the University has slowed its efforts.

    “This university tends to kind of tokenize the LGBT community and other diverse communities, like ‘as long as you have the office, we don’t have to do anything else for you,'” Kemp-DeLisser said.