Choosing a college can be one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever have to make. After all, going off to school and living on your own for the first time (or living at home while attending college) can be a major life adjustment because there are so many things to consider!
Is your potential major offered? Are you a non-drinker who would feel out-of-sorts attending a university known for its “party school” rep? What about the cafeterias? Some students are vegetarians and others have serious food allergies, and both things can be major issues when it comes to dining.
That said, finding a school where you fit in can be tough for anyone during this transitional stage of your life, but a select group of students have an even harder time selecting a college or university: some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students (often referred to as LGBT) are more concerned about a school’s tolerance and acceptance of others than its academic reputation.
Although gay marriage is not legally recognized by the United States government due to the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriage licenses are granted in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. and recent polls show that support for gay marriage is increasing. An April 20, 2011 New York Times piece by Nate Silver reported that roughly half of all Americans support gay marriage.
Gay characters are also making more appearances in television shows. In September 2010, The New York Times Arts Beat reported that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation found that LGBT characters on television had reached a new high, with 23 gay characters appearing on the broadcast networks. In March 2011, Entertainment Weekly ran a pictorial of Gay Teens on TV: A Timeline, chronicling teenage gay characters ranging from Rickie Vasquez on My So-Called Life in 1993 to Kurt Hummel on the current Fox hit Glee.
Despite an increasing acceptance of gay marriage and rising numbers of gay teens on television, LGBT youth are struggling for acceptance. Gay bullying is common in middle and high schools, as well as at the college level. Newsweek Education mentioned an October 2008 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) which found that 86 percent of LGBT students were verbally harassed while 44 percent physically abused.
In 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi’s suicide caused national headlines when he jumped off of the George Washington Bridge. Days earlier, his roommate secretly filmed Clementi being intimate with another man in their Rutgers dorm and streamed the video online.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer featured a story about Dare2Care, a May 2011 gala put on by the Human Rights Campaign, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. The event was held to “better the lives of gay youth by staving off discrimination and bullying in their schools and communities, and to tame the pressures that led so many to believe death was their only option.”
As LGBT youths come out to family and friends at earlier ages than ever before, the number of students seeking colleges and universities that are “gay friendly” is increasing. The LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index is a search tool which looks at the policies, programs and practices each college or university provides to its gay community and grades the school accordingly. Not only is the index a tool for LGBT students to seek out gay friendly colleges, it allows educational institutions to improve their LGBT campus life.
The index is owned and was developed by Campus Pride, a national non-profit organization for college students and campus groups that are working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students, along with a team of national LGBT researchers.
In January 2011, Appalachian State University’s student newspaper The Appalacian reported that monthly views for Campus Pride have more than doubled over the past four years.
Just as a variety of news outlets and college ranking systems release annual reports of the “Best Value Colleges” and “Top Party Schools,” various groups issue lists of the top gay Friendly or top LGBT friendly colleges and universities.
According to Newsweek College Rankings, the Best Gay-Friendly Schools in 2010 were:
1. University of Pennsylvania
2. University of California-Berkeley
3. Oberlin College
4. New York University
5. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
6. American University
7. Pennsylvania State University
8. University of Massachusetts-Amherst
9. Indiana University-Bloomington
10. Princeton University
According to Campus Pride (as reported by Huffpost College )the 2010 Best Gay-Friendly Colleges were:
1. Carleton College
2. Ithaca College
3. Oregon State University
4. San Diego State University
5. Syracuse University
6. Ohio State University
7. Pennsylvania State University
8. University of California, Berkeley
9. University of Maine-Farmington
10. University of California-Los Angeles
For more information about any of the above-mentioned schools, take advantage of the StateUniversity.com college and university search tools.
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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