Ohio State rated one of nation’s top gay-friendly campuses
Posted on | September 22, 2010
By Julia Harris
Every year, US News & World Report comes out with a list of rankings that universities scan with more than just a passing interest. And every year, Ohio State finds itself favorably positioned among those rankings: 18th this year among all public universities and first in the state of Ohio.
Now Ohio State can add another top-tier rating to its pedigree: A five-star ranking from Campus Pride, a non-profit organization that advocates for safer, more hospitable campuses for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community. Out of 230 institutions surveyed, Ohio State was one of 19 to receive the group’s highest rating.
The results come from the group’s LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index, which rates a university on how inclusive its policies, programs and practices are for LGBT students. It relies on answers submitted in response to a detailed questionnaire that covers topics such as academic life, policy inclusion, counseling and health. The latest data suggest that Ohio State is one of the nation’s most “gay-friendly” campuses.
The designation is not terribly surprising to Amanda Bragdan, a self-described “out lesbian” with an ambitious double major in political science and economics. “We’re pretty safe on campus, generally, though we still get some crap,” she said. “I’ve been called a dyke before, just walking across the Oval. It made me laugh.”
What doesn’t amuse her quite so much is the way her family has handled her sexual identity, although she tries to treat it with humor. “Most of the family is still coming around, but at least I don’t get Bible lessons anymore,” she said. “Here at OSU, my girlfriend and I can walk hand-in-hand across campus and I feel almost … normal.”
Angie Wellman, intercultural specialist and LGBT student liaison at the Hale Multicultual Center, wants every LGBT student at Ohio State to feel “normal” and to be treated as such, in practice as well as in theory. “Of course Ohio State has every inclusive policy you could possibly ask for,” she said. “But to me it’s not just about policy. It’s about building a bridge between policy and practice. Building visibility and building community.”
Wellman, who has only been with the MCC since January, has been working hard to build a bigger profile for the LGBT community. With 12 student groups on campus — including the Human Rights Campaign and Shades, a group for LGBT students of color — the question is not so much one of quantity but one of accessibility.
“For me, gay-friendly means that there are people and resources on campus and in the administration that I can go to and feel safe,” said Kelvin LaGarde Jr., a senior and co-founder of Shades. “It also means that it should be fairly easy to find, which wasn’t true last year, but Angie has done a lot to bring the campus LGBT community together.”
One of the initiatives Wellman has put in place is the Safe Zones program, which provides what she affectionately calls “LGBT 101” education for faculty and staff who want to become allies and safe harbor for LGBT students. She has a number of additional projects in the hopper, with the ultimate goal of creating a safe space for LGBT students and helping them build a nurturing and visible community for themselves.
Next year, the task of filling out the 50-plus questions on the Campus Pride questionnaire falls to Wellman, and she has every intention of making sure Ohio State earns its five stars again.
For LaGarde, the university is already a nurturing, vibrant place. “When I think of Ohio State overall, I think it’s a diverse campus, a university that definitely does the best it can to create a space for people of different backgrounds and walks of life,” he said.
“The biggest challenge, I think, is for the university to integrate that diversity. We’re all in pods and it’s easy to find our one little pod that we fit in and stay there, instead of turning the university into one big pod that we all belong to no matter what our race, religious background, sexual orientation or economic status may be.”
Source: Ohio State rated one of nation?s top gay-friendly campuses : onCampus