By Rachel Gobep
Youngstown State University is rated three out of five stars on LGBTQ+ friendliness, according to Campus Pride Index.
Kent State University has an index of four stars, while The Ohio State University has five stars.
According to campusprideindex.org, “The Index is owned and operated by Campus Pride, the leading national nonprofit organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create safer, more LGBTQ-Friendly learning environments at colleges and universities.”
The scoring is broken down into eight categories: LGBTQ+ policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health and recruitment and retention efforts.
Carissa Brennan, president of YSUnity: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Society, said she believes YSU does not offer enough accommodations for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I think we need an LGBTQ+ dorm floor or building, so people don’t feel scared.
YSU also needs more single-stall bathrooms for those who don’t feel comfortable,” she said.
YSU currently has a Housing and Residence Life and University Courtyard flexible housing policy. Flexible housing is currently available in 4-person dormitories in Cafaro House, on the co-ed floors in Lyden House, in the upper-class communities in Wick and Weller Houses and the University Courtyard apartments.
This policy requires the apartment or dorm to be filled to capacity with each students’ consent. It allows for roommates to be chosen by compatibility regardless of gender identity or expression.
In addition, the Student Government Association and the Inclusion and Awareness Committee proposed a resolution to establish single use restrooms at YSU on Monday. Eddie Howard, associate vice-president of the Division of Student Experience, said they have key items to look at.
“One will be the single use restroom, [but] we are also looking at preferred name, in regard to those out there who want to use a preferred name,” Howard said.
The SGA will encourage the Board of Trustees to implement this policy into the University’s five-year renovation plan and recommends the single-stall restrooms be added to all university residence halls, academic buildings, Maag Library and Kilcawley Center.
They also recommended for each single-stall restroom to include a baby changing station and proper signage.
Brennan said YSUnity and the LGBTQ+ community have gotten both good and bad visibility.
“On some flyers we had hate words written on them [such as] f*****s. A lot of times people will walk by our tables and make faces or make fun of us,” she said.
A sophomore theater studies major said he emails his professors before the beginning of each semester because he prefers a name that is different than what is on the class roster. While in a general education class freshman year, a professor called him by the incorrect name multiple times throughout the semester.
In November, the professor continued to call him by the wrong name. He did not return to the class for the rest of the semester.
Snjezana “Snow” Balaz, a physics and astronomy professor at YSU, said this is unacceptable.
“If I tell you ‘My name is XYZ and I’m this,’ you just have to go with it. Although it is simple, it is complicated for some people.”
Brennan said many people have come to YSUnity because a professor has said something homophobic or transphobic to them.
Safe Zone Ally training is offered at YSU, which consists of a four-hour training session to receive a sign and access to a graphic for use on their email, according to Brian Wells, YSUnity advisor and Safe Zone organizer.
Through this training, faculty, students, community members and administrators learn information such as statistics about LGBTQ+ issues, terminology, legal issues and issues specific to college students, Wells said.
Wells said the YSU Admissions Office receives inquiries about LGBTQ+ life on campus and specifically if there is a Safe Zone program.
“Having a strong Safe Zone program meant either there was a positive campus climate for individuals or there were strides being made to improve campus climate,” he said.
According to a 2015 article published in the Jambar, the YSU athletics department received criticism for hiring Ron Brown as assistant head coach for the football team because he expressed faith-based views condemning homosexuality while working for a state institution in Nebraska.
In response, Wells sent President Jim Tressel, head football coach Bo Pelini and Brown a memo to participate in Safe Zone training. Brown was assistant head coach for three months before leaving YSU to join Liberty University’s coaching staff.
“As a faculty member, especially for the LGBTQ+ community and any other student, I just want them to feel safe because with feeling safe you can relax and learn,” Balaz said.
Balaz said she believes YSU can do better when it comes to making the LGBTQ+ community feel comfortable on campus.