Out and proud: a look at LGBT services on campus

Various university programs and student organizations show FAU’s support of the LGBT community — but despite this, the university still has room for improvement.


Lambda United President Alex Bruens (left) and Lambda Alpha Lambda president Gabby Miernik (right) said that while they both view FAU as being LGBT-friendly, the university could take extra steps to insure it’s inclusive of the entire LGBT community. Photo by Violet Castano

Sophie Siegel and Kerri Covington

Editor’s note |October 19, 1:26 p.m. This story has been updated to reflect that FAU has a trans-focused counseling group on campus

This story is a part of our print issue on diversity, which looks at differences in beliefs, race, gender/sexuality, age, disabilities, and social class among FAU students and faculty.

While same-sex marriage was only recently legalized in the U.S. in 2015, FAU has made its own strides in accepting the on-campus LGBT community.

Several LGBT organizations have been established, ranging from the university’s peer mentoring program to its student organizations. FAU even has gender-neutral restrooms scattered across campus and a “Lavender Graduation” to celebrate graduating LGBT students.

However, both FAU LGBT community members and a national LGBT nonprofit agree that the university needs to improve on several of its policies.

The University Press details how LGBT student leaders view the university, its various on-campus resources, and what it needs to work on to be fully inclusive of the LGBT population.

Lambda Alpha Lambda

Gabby Miernik, who uses the pronoun “she,” founded an on-campus gender-neutral Greek life organization earlier this year. She refers to it as a “diaternity” that’s inclusive of all genders.

“My main reason for starting any Greek life organization at FAU was … that there was none that catered to the LGBT community,” Miernik said. “Diaternity means transcending boundaries.”

Unlike a typical Greek organization, members use the term “siblings” instead of “brother” or “sisters.” The foundation of the word is a “more friendly term for non-cis and non-binary people,” Miernik said.

The organization president added that while FAU is “very welcoming” to the LGBT community, it’s “not perfect.” She said she believes that like much of U.S. society when it comes to inclusion, there’s room for FAU to better itself.

She said that one such improvement would be creating gender-inclusive on-campus housing for transgender and non-binary students. Miernik is currently pushing for the initiative in Student Government, where she serves as a House representative.

The group’s rush week, which was the first weekend of October, was inspired by other Greek groups, starting off with a “social mixer.” However, Miernik said they made sure to make it their own through education about discrimination against various genders/sexualities.

“I have high hopes for the future,” Miernik said about her organization.

Lambda United

Lambda United President Alex Bruens, who uses the pronouns “they/them and he/him,” first got involved with the organization because they said it has been the only active LGBT club on campus for the last several years.

Bruens said the purpose of this club is to destress, learn about the state of the LGBT community, and have fun while making friends.

“Why not support our community, why not come out to the meetings, why not make friends? I think it’s a great club,” they said. “Lambda United is an open space for everybody, [regardless of] gender identity and sexual orientation. Anybody and everyone is welcome, whether they fall within the LGBT community or not.”

Bruens thinks FAU is welcoming to LGBT youth, but like Miernik, said the university mirrors the rest of the country where “there [need to be] improvements for LGBT people, especially trans people.”

Lambda United is pursuing the same housing goal for transgender and non-binary students that Miernik is lobbying for in SG. Bruens said the organization plans to kick up its involvement for the initiative in 2019.

LGBTQ Peer Mentoring Program

FAU established a peer mentoring program earlier this year for LGBT students in need of on-campus resources.

Whitney Hagen, programs coordinator and licensed psychologist, is in charge of the program, which offers psychological services to LGBT students. Community members can take advantage of both one-on-one and group counseling, as well as a mentor/mentee system.

The program revolves around “topics such as navigating the coming out process, getting additional information about sexual orientation and gender identity, making friends, and navigating dating experiences, as well as integrating gender and sexual identity with other identities and into other aspects of their lives,” Hagen said.

The program also connects LGBT students to off-campus community resources and works closely with the FAU Women and Gender Equity Resource Center.

Hagan added that “some students report feeling more confident about coming out in general as a result of the support they receive in the [program].”

Lavender Graduation

FAU’s Lavender Graduation, like other universities in the U.S., honors LGBT students with a ceremony dedicated entirely to their community every semester.

To participate in the graduation, students have to sign up through an online form.

Bruens said that the graduation is a welcome change for students who didn’t attend inclusive high schools.

“I think it’s an important event for queer people to celebrate our identity in a place that accepting,” Bruens said. “If I don’t have the opportunity to celebrate my identity in high school, that graduation gives me that opportunity.”

A ways to go

Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to LGBT college students, releases an annual list of the most LGBT-friendly universities in the U.S.

This past year, it gave FAU 3.5 out of 5 stars for its LGBT inclusivity, which is a C average.

Out of eight categories, the organization listed FAU as needing to make significant improvements to four. These categories were also rated out of 5. The following four received a 3.5 rating or less: “policy inclusion,” housing, campus safety, and recruitment efforts.

Policy inclusion: 2.5 out of 5

The U.S. Department of Education has civil rights laws in place that require universities receiving federal money to prohibit discrimination. To ensure they’re meeting these requirements, public universities have statements detailing their policies on discrimination.

Campus Pride downgraded FAU in this category for two reasons. The first is that its anti-discrimination statement includes an anti-discrimination policy regarding sexual orientation, but not gender identity. The second is that students don’t have the option to self-identify their sexual orientation or their gender identity. They can only identify as “male” or “female.”

However, FAU scored well when it came to making it easy for students to change their name and gender identity on university documents, as well as providing health insurance coverage for employees’ same-sex partners.

Housing: 3 out of 5

FAU lost points for not having an LGBT living space or living learning community, gender-inclusive housing, and gender-inclusive showers. However, its LGBT roommate matching system, gender-inclusive restrooms in dormitories, and LGBT training for housing staff boosted its score to a passing 3.

Campus safety: 3.5 out of 5

Campus Pride listed FAU’s only flaw as needing to have active outreach to LGBT students and student organizations. It did well thanks to its active hate crime prevention training, procedure for reporting discrimination against LGBT community members, campus police training on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and support for LGBT victims of abuse. Despite this, the university only barely passed this category.

Recruitment efforts: 3 out of 5

The university has several improvements to make in this category, including LGBT-specific training for admission counselors, LGBT student scholarships, and participation in LGBT admission fairs. FAU received points though for having an LGBT peer mentoring program and Lavender Graduation.

Almost perfect

Campus Pride’s other four categories, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, and counseling and health, were rated higher than the previous four, only needing slight changes to score a perfect 5/5.

Support and institutional commitment: 4.5 out of 5

The university scored points for having an LGBT resource center, staff in charge of LGBT support services, an LGBT advisory committee, a safe space, and a commitment to hiring “out” LGBT community members. The only thing the university is missing is an LGBT alumni group.

Academic life: 4.5 out of 5

FAU did well in this category due to its inclusion of a specific LGBT courses, an LGBT studies program, recruitment of faculty for LGBT scholarships, and faculty and staff training on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. All FAU lacks is an LGBT faculty and staff organization.

Student Life: 4 out of 5

The university scored highly in this category thanks to its regular LGBT social and educational events, inclusive career services, and LGBT student organizations. However, it lost points because it doesn’t have an LGBT graduate student organization, and at the time of the report, an LGBT social fraternity or sorority didn’t exist.

Counseling and health: 4 out of 5

Campus Pride reported that FAU performed favorably because of its “free, anonymous and accessible” HIV/STI testing, LGBT health information and resources, trans-inclusive training for counseling staff, and LGBT counseling groups. Despite this, the university is missing a student health insurance policy that covers hormone replacement therapy for trans people.

Pride Guide: LGBT Definitions

A rundown of some of the more common gender identities and sexual orientations that make up the LGBT community.


Pride Guide: Gender Neutral Restrooms

There are eight total buildings on the Boca campus that feature bathrooms for those who don’t wish to use the facilities that are separated by gender.

Sophie Siegel is a staff writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].

Kerri Covington is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @kerri_marie23.