Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, faculty and staff on college campuses are more likely to experience harassment and discrimination than their straight counterparts, according to a new national report.
The 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People was released this week by the advocacy group Campus Pride and is available for purchase on that organization's website. Researchers Sue Rankin, Genevieve Weber, Warren Blumenfeld and Somjen Frazer co-authored the study.
The survey went out in spring 2009 and got responses from 5,149 people, including students, staff members, faculty members and administrators representing all 50 states. Survey participants from 100 institutions, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to large public universities, answered 96 questions plus more open-ended questions.
Four-fifths of the people who responded to the survey identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer, while 16 percent were heterosexual.
Campus Pride's founder and executive director Shane L. Windmeyer called the results a wake-up call for college officials.
"It is a chance for higher education to take responsibility for creating a welcoming, safe learning environment for everyone, regardless of sexual identity, gender identity or gender expression," he wrote in the report.
Some 23 percent of LGBT people who responded to the survey said they had experienced harassment, compared to 12 percent of heterosexual people. For LGBT people, the harassment was also more likely to be based on sexual identity.
LGBT people were also twice as likely as heterosexual people to say they had been targets of derogatory remarks (61 percent), stared at (37 percent), and singled out as the “resident authority” on LGBT issues (36 percent), compared to heterosexuals (29 percent, 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively).
Perhaps most telling, LGBT students as well as faculty and staff were much more likely than their straight counterparts to consider leaving their institution because they experienced or feared physical or psychological harassment, discrimination and violence related to their sexual identity.
The foreword to the report was written by George D. Kuh, a well-respected leader in the field of student development and the director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.
Kuh called the report's results "uniformly disappointing."
"The responses of many LGBT students, staff and faculty summarized in this report indicate that they find the environments in which they study and work to be personally challenging and perceive a lack of support from many of those around them," Kuh wrote.
In the open-ended portion of the survey, participants gave examples of some of the issues they had faced.
One student was called a "tranny freak" and physically assaulted in public while on campus, yet said that university officials there were "less than responsive."
A faculty member said that students "wrote derogatory things on my evaluations and made reference to my sexual orientation," and that the department chair ignored it.
One student said he was kicked out of a fraternity unofficially because of his sexual orientation. In one college dorm where students had "about me" pages pasted on their dorm room doors, someone wrote 'dyke' on an LGBT student's page.
In several areas of the survey, people who identified as transmasculine, transfeminine, and gender-nonconforming had more negative experiences and perceptions than those who identified as men or women. The report's authors said an emerging theme within the study revealed that, while discrimination against gays and lesbians may be somewhat subtle these days, transgender people see overt and blatant harassment.
The report includes an exhaustive list of recommendations for ways that college officials can make their campuses more inclusive:
- Adopt policies that explicitly welcome LGBT employees and students, such as giving people the ability to have a preferred name on ID cards.
- Demonstrate institutional commitment by integrating LGBT concerns into many different areas of the university, such as creating a resource center on campus.
- Integrate LGBT issues in curricular and co-curricular education.
- Respond appropriately to anti-LGBT incidents, for example by forming a bias incident or hate crime reporting system.
- Foster student dialogues in on-campus housing, perhaps by providing a matching program where LGBT students can be matched with LGBT-friendly roommates.