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CWRU pride: University makes list of top LGBT-friendly colleges

Case Western Reserve is among the Top 25 LGBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities, according to Campus Pride, a national organization that aims to make universities safer and more inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The recognition, announced this week in The Huffington Post, follows Case Western Reserve’s first five-star ranking on the Campus Pride Index, a detailed survey of universities’ policies, services and institutional support for LGBT individuals.
 
“This recognition from Campus Pride is the result of tireless efforts among our faculty, staff, students and alumni to promote the principles of inclusion,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “We are pleased to receive this honor, and will continue to seek ways to advance diversity across our campus.”
 

 

The index assesses eight different LGBT-friendly factors:

  • policy inclusion,

  • support and institutional commitment,

  • academic life,

  • student life,

  • housing,

  • campus safety,

  • counseling and health, and

  • recruitment and retention efforts.

Each campus included in the final listing achieved an overall rating of five stars, plus five stars in categories related to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The campuses had to score 4.5 stars or above in all eight LGBT-friendly factors. (Case Western Reserve’s results can be viewed by searching on campusprideindex.org/; a free login is required.)
 
Other colleges and universities on the list included: Ohio State University, Oberlin College, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania.
 
“Campus Pride congratulates Case Western Reserve University for being in the top 25 this year,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. “From the beginning, the campus has continually improved and has always seen the importance of ‘coming out’ for its LGBT students. Our hope is to encourage more campuses to be more like Case Western Reserve University and take responsibility for a safe learning environment for all students, including LGBT students.”
 
Over the past few years, Case Western Reserve leadership has committed to creating a more supportive, inclusive environment for LGBT individuals.
 
In 2010, the university opened its first LGBT Center, which provides resources and support to LGBTQ (questioning) students, faculty and staff. Earlier that year, the university initiated the Safe Zone program, a visible network of volunteers committed to creating a community of respect and dignity for LGBTQ individuals. More than 500 people from across the university participated in the training so far, according to Liz Roccoforte, who became the center’s full-time director last year after leading it on a part-time basis since its inception.
 
In recent months the university has taken steps to enhance its policies related to transgender students. Case Western Reserve is one of 44 U.S. colleges and whose student health care policies cover transgender-related issues. The university also offers a preferred name policy through which transgender students who haven’t legally changed their names still can do so for university communications. Students also can change their gender marker in university records. Case Western Reserve is one of 72 colleges and universities that allow students to change these factors in university records. For a number of years, the university also has offered gender-neutral housing to accommodate transgender students.
 
Beginning this fall, all Case Western Reserve police and security officers will attend training about LGBT-inclusive strategies, and police will work with LGBT student organizations to ensure that “all LGBT students know they are safe and supported by the campus policy,” Roccoforte said. She emphasized that the training is offered as a proactive—not reactive—plan.
 
In April, the Sigma Nu fraternity—which spent a Friday night going through Safe Zone training with Roccoforte—performed Macklemore’s “Same Love” at Greek Sing. The fraternity not only won the competition, but it also gained rave reviews as the video spread within the university.
 
The following month, the Case Association of Student Athletes released a video, titled “Athletics is Our Home,” (featuring the same song) with athletes and coaches sharing their support for an inclusive environment on and off the field.
 
“In Greek Life and athletics—and throughout the university—there are some people, both LGBT and allies, who are very brave and very passionate,” Roccoforte said. “It’s made a huge difference here.”
 
Roccoforte is quick to note, though, that there is room for improvement. “As proud as we are of this recognition,” she said, “we still can get better at making Case Western Reserve a safe, supportive environment for the entire community.”