Youngstown State University has received a two out of five star rating by Campus Pride Index, a website which rates universities’ LGBTQIA community integration. The site evaluates schools using eight metrics — each with their own five star rating system — to draw the school’s final score. The index is a helpful tool for members of the LGBT community when searching for colleges, whether for education or employment.
The metrics, which include LGBT policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and retention and recruitment efforts, are determined by way of a survey that campus advisers complete and return to the Campus Pride organization.
YSU scored lowest in the categories of LGBT academic life, LGBT campus safety, and LGBT recruitment and retention efforts, earning a one star rating in academic life and campus safety, and a 1.5 star rating in recruitment and retention.
Concerning LGBT campus safety, YSU’s low score can be attributed to the university’s lack of procedures for reporting LGBT specific crimes or bias based discrimination, a lack of training for campus police on sexual orientation issues, and a lack of training for campus police on gender identity and expression issues.
Despite the lack of LGBT specific training for campus law enforcement, YSU has had few reported incidents of crimes aimed specifically at LGBT students. Tim Bortner, YSUnity vice president said to his knowledge, there hasn’t been any recent cimes.
“I have heard of them in the past, maybe three years ago, but nothing recently,” Bortner said. “Really, it kind of baffles me. At YSU, we haven’t really had any problems.”
Though YSU provides LGBT “Safe Zone” training — a five-hour program offered twice a year meant to equip faculty and students to effectively and appropriately handle LGBT issues and communicate with LGBT students — it is not a requirement for campus law enforcement.
“Some of them [campus law enforcement] have gone through Safe Zone, but it’s not required. … I think it would be a great requirement,” Bortner said.
YSU also scored low on the LGBT academic life metric, which rates the school on the inclusion of LGBT specific minors, majors, and available courses in general.
“There’s no classes geared towards sexual orientation or identity,” Bortner said.
YSUnity has been working toward getting more LGBT-focused courses offered, but things have come to a standstill. Brandon Nivers, a member of YSUnity, was concerned about the organization’s progress on getting LGBT classes added to the university.
“I think it’s where it has been,” Nivers aid. “We’re not moving forward, we’re not moving backward.”
Bortner said that the goal for the future and next semester would be to move forward, but “it’s a very hard process to do.”
New programs are generally formed when enough existing classes from different programs exist to make up a foundation for the new major or minor. YSU currently offers courses in women’s studies, human psychology, human sexuality and sociology, which could serve as a foundation for an LGBT program.
“I think an ideal LGBT course would be for everyone,” Nivers said. “… You can always learn more about [the LGBT community]. I’m actually really shocked we don’t have one yet.”
YSU’s LGBT recruitment and retention efforts were also scored low on the Campus Pride Index, due to a lack of LGBT mentoring for incoming students, a lack of LGBT and Ally scholarships, the nonexistence of a special graduation ceremony for LGBT and Ally students and a lack of participation by the university in LGBT admission fairs.
“I think it goes back to having a department that deals specifically with LGBT issues,” Bortner said. “The diversity department helps us out with a lot of things, but having an actual department with faculty would help out a lot. Our adviser does a lot too, but that’s a lot of work on him. … This would be an actual department, like the diversity department.”
Along with an actual department, Bortner also believes an LGBT resource center — which would offer books, pamphlets and outlets for communication between LGBT students and relevant organizations — would improve the university’s overall score.
“There’s tons and tons of pressure on YSUnity to provide everything for the LGBT student community, and if we could just get some of that pressure lifted off and have some sort of faculty and administration, that would be very helpful,” Dustin Hall, YSUnity secretary, said.
Despite it’s flaws, YSU did earn a score of three stars for LGBT housing, student life, and policy inclusion. The existence of YSUnity and the Safe Zone program, as well as the university’s LGBT inclusive non-discrimination policy, same sex partner health insurance policy, transgendered student option to be housed according to their gender identity/expression and LGBT advisory committee were commended.
While the low Campus Pride Index score does not seem to stem from animosity towards the LGBT community, Hall believes that it may be the result of a deeper cultural issue.
“There’s a lot of apathy is the problem. [LGBT issues are] a non issue to everyone, particularly the younger students who are coming in,” Hall said. “Due to the way children are being brought up now, with acceptance being a baseline belief, it’s become a non-issue, rather than being seen as a cause that still needs to be pursued.”
Hall said he believes with a baseline acceptance of the LGBT community existing in younger students, a new perspective must be adopted in order to move the general public away from apathy to the LGBT community and more towards participation.
“Now that we have personal acceptance … we need come up with ways to fight the apathy, and to raise awareness. It’s now time to look at the culture, and the institutions, and see what kind of administrations are perpetuating ideas that we need to get out now,” Hall said. “And you know, maybe we can rouse some celebration. There’s a difference between tolerance, acceptance and celebration.”