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Ohio State ranked in top 25 LGBT-friendly campuses

Onlookers line the sidewalks at the Pride Parade, part of the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival, June 22 on High Street. OSU was recently named one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly US colleges. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Onlookers line the sidewalks at the Pride Parade, part of the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival, June 22 on High Street. OSU was recently named one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly US colleges. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Though Ohio State was recently named one of the top 25 Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender-friendly colleges and universities of 2013, some at OSU feel there is still room for improvement.

The nonprofit organization Campus Pride, which aims to help the LGBT community and its allies by working with schools and promoting programs and services that make college life safer for and more inclusive of LGBT students, released the ranking based off of its LGBT-Friendly Campus Pride Index, the assessment of the 380 participating schools’ LGBT policies, programs and services.

The index scores are based off an online self-assessment made by a campus official, usually someone who represents the on-campus LGBT community.

Chris Bellman, the leader of the student organization Fine By Me, one of the largest LGBT ally student organizations on campus, said he is impressed OSU was the only public school in Ohio to make the list.

“I think it’s really cool to see the third largest university in the nation leading the charge of equality and options and caring about LGBT students,” said Bellman, a third-year in electrical and computer engineering.

Although proud of the ranking, Bellman said there should be more efforts to promote awareness of LGBT issues to those outside the community, and there should be more housing options for LGBT students.

To be ranked in the top 25, a school had to earn five stars in the overall, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression categories and meet a score at least 4.5 stars in the eight other categories, including LGBT policy, student life, academic life and campus safety. OSU received the highest score in nine of the 10 categories.

Ohio schools Case Western Reserve University and Oberlin College also made the list, with Case Western earning five stars in eight categories and Oberlin earning the highest score in all 10.

The index report seemed to reflect some of Bellman’s ideas. The only non-perfect score OSU received was in housing and residence life, most likely because, according to Campus Pride’s report card, OSU does not offer LGBT housing options.

“I definitely think there’s room for improvement in a lot of areas,” Bellman said. “It’s a process.”

Others on OSU’s campus are proud of what’s been done by the university so far.

“I think that Ohio State has been on the leading edge of creating safe spaces for all students, including LGBTQ students,” said Angie Wellman, the intercultural specialist and leader of LGBTQ (where Q stands for questioning) student initiatives at the OSU Multicultural Center, in an email.

Wellman oversees many initiatives promoting the LGBTQ community. These include student cohort groups and signature LGBTQ events such as Ally Week in September, which seeks to encourage OSU community members to stand up for those of another race, sexual orientation, religion or other identifying factor different from their own, and Buckeye Pride in June, which aims to promote understanding of the LGBTQ community at OSU.

Wellman believes OSU has a strong LGBTQ community.

“Here you will find a diverse and vibrant LGBTQ community, both on-campus and in the Central Ohio community,” Wellman said. “You will find that our policies are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, and that there really is an institutional value to create a campus climate wherein all student(s) feel valued and included.”

The subject of LGBTQ acceptance has been a hot topic lately not only on campus, but in the nation as a whole. In June, the United States Supreme Court struck down a part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman under the federal law, meaning now most legally married same-sex couples will be entitled to spousal benefits. There has been a ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio since 2004, but a potential repeal of the ban may appear on next year’s ballot.

Bellman said the DOMA decision was a win for the LGBTQ community because “legal representation leads to societal conclusion” and society is slowly shifting toward a “more accepting mindset.” He also believes these ideals could spread throughout campus as well.

“As the general population’s mindset shifts, which is affected by laws, you’re going to see more and more people coming to Ohio State, and more and more of our student body, and all of America as a whole, being a lot more inclusive of the LGBT community,” Bellman said.

Niki Kaufman, a third-year in chemical engineering, said the ranking “shows we’re diverse and accepting, and that we have a welcoming community.”

Richard Blocher, a second-year in material science engineering, called the ranking “great” but said more needs to be done.

“I haven’t seen anything particularly nasty about people treating LGBT people differently on campus, but everywhere there are improvements that need to be made,” Blocher said.

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