Story and photos by KOURTNEY COMPTON
The University of Utah received a near-perfect ranking in every category in a study announced on Aug. 21, 2012, by the Huffington Post in partnership with Campus Pride. Campus Pride is a national nonprofit organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create safer, more inclusive LGBT-friendly colleges and universities.
The Campus Pride rankings are based on questionnaires submitted voluntarily by students, faculty and staff at 339 U.S. colleges and universities. The questionnaire addresses issues on LGBT-inclusive policies, housing, academic life, health and counseling, faculty, recruitment and retention, and other categories.
“Praise and accolades are deserved for these top 25 colleges and universities,” Campus Pride executive director Shane Windmeyer said in a press release. “Every student deserves to feel safe on campus, and all of these colleges are committed to creating a more LGBT-friendly campus.”
The lowest ranking the U received was a 3.5 out of 5 in the housing and residence life category. Currently there is no designated housing on campus that is listed as gender-neutral, which could have impact on the rating.
LGBT life was not always this way in colleges, and this ranking is a statement of growth, work and effort of the campus, its staff, faculty, and students alike.
Kai Medina-Martínez, the director of the U’s LGBT Resource Center who identifies with the pronoun they, said the U received a low rating for its housing policy. They said the U doesn’t allow students to self-select a roommate of the opposite sex.
Medina-Martinez said the LGBT Center is working with the Housing and Residential Center to create more inclusive housing policies.
“We want to stay away from the word tolerance, we aim for acceptance,” they said. “The more we can breakdown the myths about us, such as, we want to recruit people or we are out to destroy the traditional family, the more people can be less threatened and more open.”
Many colleges have LGBT organizations as well as departments dedicated to the fair treatment of all students, such as the LGBT Resource Center at the U, which is located in the Olpin Student Union.
“There is a large lounging area that the students utilize,” Medina-Martínez said. “Right now we have four computers that students can use to do papers or study and we also allow students to do 10 free copies a day.”
The LGBT Resource Center also holds an event called “Fabulous Fridays,” every Friday between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. for students to socialize, eat snacks and play games.
“College is about preparing people to navigate many different environments and interact with many different people, it is consistent,” Medina-Martinez said. This leads to many LGBT individuals taking this opportunity to fully explore themselves and realize who they are.
Travis Nguyen, an openly gay student at the U, said, “It’s definitely easier for me at the U. In high school and during my freshman year at Dixie [State College], no one knew that I was bisexual. I just felt I didn’t have enough strength to put myself out there and deal with it then. It was also easier in college because I knew that once my mom found out she wouldn’t be happy and at least I wouldn’t be living in her house. At the U the people are more mature and open minded to the people and things around them. Basically it’s just a whole lot easier.”
The LGBT Resource Center hosted Pride Week, Oct. 1-5, 2012. The theme was, “Pride has no Borders.”
Nguyen added, “The University of Utah hold a lot of gay and lesbian events all over campus. Here I can be who I want to be.”