A Safe Haven for LGBT Students

Recent tragic suicides of young gay individuals due to bullying and pressures and hatred from society have put bullying and the treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (also referred to as LGBT) individuals in a new light. After a weeklong protest last fall, LGBT students at the University of Rhode Island say that they finally feel like they are getting somewhere. With gay pride and rainbow-colored flags, dreamcatchers hanging in windows, and Christmas lights spread around exposed pipes, the separate dormitory on campus is where the LGBT community feels the safest. Sadly, this is not even on campus. In the past year, students from the LGBT community have told stories about hearing slurs yelled at them, being followed, and having trash and used condoms dumped at their doorsteps, according to an article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Other campuses and universities across the country are starting to see the trend as something that is important to the LGBT community and something that they need: a place where LGBT students can feel safe. More universities are hiring advisers and counselors to serve students that are LGBT and membership in the national Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals included 75 colleges in 2000 and now represents 175 colleges and universities, the article stated. The center is just one of the items on the Campus Pride agenda. Campus Pride, which is aimed at having national standards, policies, programs, and practices for LGBT students, launched an index in 2007 which allows the group to work off checklists when it comes to meeting the needs of the LGBT community on campuses.

As the openly gay population continues to grow, some school officials believe that without adequate resources and advisors to guide LGBT students and educate campuses on gay issues, gay students may feel depression and other conditions that may lead them to drop out or feel detached and alone. But not everyone has been so gay-friendly, as there was an assault on a gay student and a center for diversity on the University of Rhode Island campus was shut down in 2000. While the school has seen some changes, programs and services within the university geared at this diversity were "paper thin." The demonstration put on by LGBT students this fall included them taking shifts and sleeping on floors in the library with demands, including that they get a new center and that faculty members and resident advisers get diversity training.

More campuses are seeing the importance of diversity and acceptance in their students as they are also trying to make progress, even if it is in small steps. At North Dakota State University, students signed pledges to stop bullying, students from Westmont College sent letters to a school that strictly prohibited "homosexual practice," and at Belmont University – a Christian institution – a gay-student group was recognized, all of which show signs of subtle change. While many of these schools will still face challenges, they are set on focusing on diversity.

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