We’re living in an era in which teens are feeling comfortable enough to admit that they’re gay at younger ages than ever before, but discrimination based on sexual orientation is still widespread. Even on college campuses, which are supposedly places where young people can “find themselves” while being accepted by others.
At an April 14th meeting of the executive board of the Duke College Republicans, Duke University junior Justin Robinette was removed from his position as chairperson following a unanimous vote by the group’s executive board. The articles of impeachment created by the board listed reasons such as “attempting to fix club elections” and “neglect in his responsibilities as Chair,” yet Robinette insists that he was eliminated because he is gay.
Was the fact that he is gay really the reason of Robinette’s dismissal? The executive board’s articles of impeachment also state that Robinette is guilty of “general conduct unbecoming of a person in a position of leadership,” but the document makes no reference to his sexual orientation.
“From the comments made to me before, from the hostile environment created… I believe my sexual orientation had a reason as to my impeachment,” Robinette said in an interview with the Chronicle, Duke University’s student newspaper, on Sunday April 18th.
Some students testified for Robinette, claiming that the College Republicans create a hostile environment for gay and lesbians, but an April 20th ruling by the Duke Student Government Judiciary decided that there was no substantial evidence available to convict the Duke College Republicans of discrimination against Robinette because of his sexual orientation.
Robinette, an openly gay student, was supposedly removed from office for his “ineffectiveness” … but perhaps it really did have something to do with the fact that he’s gay? Tough to say, but perhaps the combination of the two was too much for other students to handle.
As high school students begin the search for their perfect college, different things are considered by different people. Proximity to home, availability of majors, and cost are three of the “usual” deciding factors for many, but students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered — often lumped together and described with the acronym LGBT – feeling comfortable and safe on a campus that is relatively “accepting” is crucial.
Bullying and harassment of LGBT students is sadly nothing new, but LGBT College Fairs are a newfound trend. Yes, you read that correctly — college fairs around the country are being held to actively recruit gay students.
Obviously, being gay doesn’t equal automatic acceptance when an application is turned in by a student, but colleges do want students to know that they are welcome and will feel safe and accepted on campus. Many straight students who have gay parents or gay family members also appreciate knowing that they will not be discriminated against.
Students are more open about their sexuality than they were in years past, and many students even write about being gay or their “coming out” experience for their college admissions essay. This is often done because it’s considered a time of conflict and turmoil and may even show that they have the strength to overcome life’s challenges.
In addition to college fairs aimed at LGBT students, college guidebooks are also offering information. The Fiske Guide to Colleges includes information to assist college-bound LGBT youth. “As LGBT issues came to be more openly discussed, we devoted more attention to them,” says Ted Fiske, author of the Guide.
LGBT students are also hoping to use their sexual preference to earn scholarships. There are many of those available, sponsored by groups such as COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) and the Family Pride Coalition (FPC) among other private scholarships.
College is a time of personal growth for all students, and the college experience should be a safe one. Things seem to be getting easier for LGBT students … although experiences like Justin Robinette’s still occur.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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