Gay Students and College Employees Face Significant Harassment, Report Says

September 14, 2010

Whether they are students, staff members, professors, or administrators, people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender report significant harassment at their colleges and discomfort with the overall campus climates, according to a new national report.

The report, "The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People," was based on a survey conducted by the Q Research Institute for Higher Education, which is run by the advocacy group Campus Pride in partnership with Iowa State and Pennsylvania State Universities. The survey drew on responses from 5,150 people—primarily those who described themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender but also heterosexual "allies"—in the spring of 2009 at about 100 institutions nationwide.

About a quarter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer students and employees said they had experienced harassment, as did more than a third of transgender and "gender nonconforming" respondents, compared with 12 percent of heterosexuals.

Seventy percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer students and employees felt comfortable with the overall campus climate, the report says, a rate that was higher than that among transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents but lower than that of heterosexuals. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer students who were also members of racial minority groups felt less comfortable in their classes than did their white counterparts, and faculty members were more likely than were students and staff members to have considered leaving their institutions, the report says.

"Colleges and universities have the responsibility to create safe learning environments for everyone, regardless of sexual identity or gender identity," Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, said in a written statement. "Now is the time to act."

The report offers a series of recommendations for institutions to improve their campus climates, a step that it says will lead to better learning outcomes for students and professional development for employees. Among more than six dozen recommendations, the report says colleges should:

  • Include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in institutional nondiscrimination statements.
  • Extend health-insurance coverage to employees' same-sex partners.
  • Establish a resource center with a full-time professional staff member for gender and sexuality education and support.
  • Provide gender and sexuality training to athletic-department, public-safety, and residence-life staff members.
  • Distribute a pamphlet to faculty members about inclusive language in the classroom.
  • Offer a clear, visible procedure for reporting incidents of bias.
  • Recruit and provide scholarships for prospective lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, and develop a peer-mentoring program for new students.
  • Offer students who don't describe themselves as male or female the ability to self-identify on applications for admission and housing, as well as other forms, and allow students and employees to change their gender designation on records.
  • Offer gender-neutral housing and restrooms, as well as a "matching program" for students to be placed with gay-friendly roommates.
  • Create gender- and sexuality-related support groups in the counseling center.
  • Develop an alumni group for graduates who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning.

The complete report is available for purchase on Campus Pride's Web site. Next Tuesday the group will conduct two Webinars, and on Thursday its leaders will hold a policy briefing at the U.S. Capitol.