• August 29, 2015

Gay Students and College Employees Face Significant Harassment, Report Says

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.


1. jaysanderson - September 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

When a survey begins with an agenda, one can be certain the authors will find exactly what they expected. Over 20 years I have worked on three major university campuses and I have never seen more gay-friendly places. There is abuse and terror all over the world. Yes, gays are being tortured and executed in many countries like Iran, Pakistan, etc., but our universities and colleges are utopian by comparison. My coworkers who are gay are openly so, and are treated no differently than any other faculty or staff. Except the people who are self-absorbed jerks, but straight colleagues seem to excel in that category. Now, that being said, I don't want to know about any coworkers' sex life--straight or gay. Not interested. Their business-- We just work together.

2. wagamama - September 15, 2010 at 08:18 am

I would have to agree with jaysanderson. Whatever problems I've had at the institution where I have taught for nearly two decades do not include harassment based on my orientation (and I am pretty out, though not aggressively in-your-face about it). Nor was I ever bullied or made to feel uncomfortable about my sexuality at the three campuses I attended as a student. Compared to a lot of places, even in America, colleges and universities are safe places to be GLBT, at least in this one person's experience.

3. mmcknight - September 15, 2010 at 09:38 am

jasanderson--how would you know if you have colleauges who *aren't* open about being gay? Of course you know about the ones who are open about it--but there are lots of ways to hide it. Also, no one's saying gays are being tortured or executed on college campuses--but that's an awfully low bar to set, don't you think? (How come when a majority-identified person suffers somehow--say, your opposite-sex spouse gets hit by a car--no one says "well, you should feel happy, at least you're not in Pakistan--medical care is far worse there"?)

Glad to hear, wagamama, that you've never felt bullied or uncomfortable--count yourself among the 70 percent, which yes, is a clear majority. The point is that that number is still lower for LGBTQ folks than for heteros. Your one person's experience does not negate the experience of others, nor does it prove the survey's findings to be erroneous.

4. ld071185 - September 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

jaysanderson: A person's sexual orientation is much more than their sex life. It is a piece of our identity that, when expressed in the work place, can enhance the work we do with students. Much in the same way our gender, race, and cultural backgrounds lead to fascinating discovery in the world of higher education in preparing today's youth to lead our destiny tomorrow. Our lack of understanding is bigger than each of us. I'd encourage you to revisit your language regarding sexual orientation as it will no doubt marginalize talented students and colleagues at your institution and endanger your ability to truly make a difference.

The problem I have with this article is that many institutions are doing these things already (as mentioned by previous responders). Like much of the lack of preparation seen at universities, it stems from lack of preparation in high schools. Students are not even being prepared academically for college, not to mention being prepared to live and learn with students who identify at LGBT.

What work is being done there?

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