In case you hadn’t noticed, Florida Atlantic likes to brag about how diverse it is. And with some help from Campus Pride, the university is hoping to increase its diversity even further by improving its standing with LGBT students.
Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization working to create a safer college experience for the LGBT community, is a national online community and resource for prospective LGBT college students and their parents. It scores hundreds of college campuses in the United States in terms of inclusivity and opportunities in enrollment and on campus for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, and anyone else who identifies as LGBT.
“Campus Pride, for over a decade now, has tried to take the invisible population [of LGBT students] and connect them with colleges who are looking to recruit and cater to LGBT students,” Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride, said.
Students are able to “shop” through the colleges on the index — which are scored from one to five stars in terms of “LGBT friendliness” — and contact admissions offices directly from Campus Pride’s site.
Windmeyer said that the Campus Pride website gets an average of 60,000 to 80,000 views per month. Receiving a high ranking on the index would therefore put FAU on the radar of a larger number of prospective LGBT students.
Colleges are able to get their name on the index via a thorough application process. The application consists of 80 in-depth questions that explore everything from on-campus LGBT organizations to LGBT-inclusive health services.
The Office for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is currently working through Campus Pride’s extensive application process, recording every program and opportunity that LGBT students have at FAU.
LGBT coordinator Geanny Joseph Ruiz is based out of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. She is in charge of the Campus Pride application process and said that the questions have made her think of more ways to improve LGBT inclusivity at FAU.
“I am going through the questions. It is very in-depth and intense. There are questions pertaining to student life, faculty, housing, everything pertaining to the University,” Ruiz said. “I am very thankful for the questions, you can see that their purpose is so that you cross all your t’s and dot your i’s and you’re making sure you’re doing everything possible to ensure inclusivity of LGBT students on campus.”
Windmeyer, a gay man and longtime LGBT activist, created Campus Pride in 2006. He said that he did so to aid LGBT students looking for a college where they have the opportunity to express themselves and find solidarity in a campus community.
“For students and family members, this index may be the only free, noncommercial tool that they can use to compare campuses and find the best fit, not only academically but also the perfect fit for them if they are gay, transgender, bisexual or fall on the LGBT spectrum,” Windmeyer said.
FAU already offers LGBT programs and services on campus, from Lambda United, the college’s own LGBT student group, to the Kaleidoscope Room, a safe space for students to express their thoughts and feelings.
“[The Kaleidoscope room] is in the ODMA office, and LGBT students and non-LGBT students are encouraged to got there in between classes to meet fellow students and connect,” Roman Alexander, the president of Lambda United, said. “There are also books and films about LGBT history, as well as resource information from local LGBT groups.”
Alexander added that Lambda United works closely with ODMA, and that the group is excited FAU is taking this step and applying for the index.
“It is great that [FAU] is taking the initiative and paying attention to the needs of the LGBT students on campus,” Alexander said. “I think FAU needs even more outreach, more advocacy events.”
Ruiz said that as she works through the index she is constantly coming across new ways to improve outreach, advocacy and general LGBT inclusion at FAU.
“Looking into the index, there are ways you would never have thought to improve,” Ruiz said. “There is a question pertaining to LGBT representation in grieving services on campus. I’ve never thought of that, and the index is full of examples where you wouldn’t have considered as a place where marginalized groups would specifically need to be mentioned.”
Ruiz hopes to have the application submitted and FAU included on Campus Pride’s index by the fall semester. This move would make FAU the sixth Florida college included in the index.
Windmeyer said, “The University of North Florida has four stars, New College of Florida has three stars, the University of Central Florida has four-and-a-half stars, Stetson has three-and-a-half stars and the Seminole State College of Florida has two-and-a-half stars.”
While FAU would get more traffic from LGBT students if it scored higher on the index, he said that any score is better than no score.
“We encourage all colleges to reveal their scores, because even if they have a lower score, their willingness to apply to the index shows that they are trying, and in some states, even a score of one to two stars may be the best option,” Windmeyer said.
FAU will not be scored until next semester, but in the meantime there are still places and opportunities for LGBT students on campus who may not know how to get involved.
“When we get more visibility, I hope that the community will come and take part in campus events and become more prominent and involved,” Ruiz said. “We are a safe space for LGBT students as well as anyone else who wants somewhere to safely express their thoughts and feelings as well as expressing themselves. We need more visibility, I don’t know that enough students know who we are or where we are, and that this is a place for them.”
Tucker Berardi is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @tucker_berardi.