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Ohio State ranked among top 30 “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly colleges

Ohio Health employees parade along High Street with one of the signature floats of the day at the 2018 Pride Parade in Columbus on Saturday, June 16. Credit: Olivia Britt | For The Lantern

Ohio State has been ranked among the top 30 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, according to an annual report released by Campus Pride, a national nonprofit dedicated to recognizing LGBTQ inclusivity.

The 30 “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities were chosen from more than 330 campuses in the Campus Pride Index. The index is a nationally renowned benchmarking tool, using self-assessment to gauge LGBTQ-friendliness across several indicator areas.

According to the Campus Pride website, Ohio State earned five out of five stars in terms of overall commitment to LGBTQ policies and programs.

“The Ohio State University has long been a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and allies have thrived,” said Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life. “Here you’ll find the diverse and vibrant LGBTQ community that is supported by our inclusive policies and nurtured by interdepartmental efforts to create an affirming and inclusive campus environment.”

Ohio State also earned five stars in the indicator area of LGBTQ counseling and health. The criteria were assessed by several factors, including LGBTQ-specific support groups, counseling, and training for both staff and students.

Harry Warner, outreach coordinator for Counseling and Consultation Services and professional clinical counselor, said CCS offers a number of therapy groups for LGBTQ-identifying students. He facilitates the Lambda Men’s Group, which is a safe space for men to talk about their attraction to men, regardless of identities or labels.

“Our group folks are clients, and we do that for a couple reasons, because it’s actually providing treatment,” Warner said. “So they’re identified clients and we do that to nurture the integrity of the group to make sure it stays cohesive and that way people feel safer to open up about stuff if they know new people won’t be coming without that process in place.”

Warner said CCS bases its services not only on awareness, but also on affirming students in their identities.

“We practice from an affirmative prospective, so not only accepting but honoring a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as part of their whole selves,” Warner said.

Campus Pride also recognized Ohio State in the indicator area of student life. The Multicultural Center was recognized for championing efforts towards LGBTQ social inclusivity.

Casey Varabkanich, a third-year in forensic biology, is involved as a head mentor with one of MCC’s cohorts, First Year Q*mmunity, which serves to help acclimate first-year identifying students to campus life.

“[It] kind of creates a space for first-year LGBTQ students to come hang out, meet other students who are also LGBTQ, and kind of get that introduction to campus and what it looks like to not only be a first year, but be a first year who is trying to navigate the campus and navigate their identity as well,” Varabkanich said.

Varabkanich said his involvement in the First Year Q*mmunity, as well as other programming under the Office of Student Life, has largely shaped his experience at Ohio State.

“I really do enjoy working for Student Life on campus,” Varabkanich said. “It’s just a great place to be and all the people I’ve come into contact with through work have been nothing but wonderful and respecting.”

Warner said that although Ohio State is doing well in terms of LGBTQ progress, there is always room for improvement.

“I think even more social and networking activities for staff and faculty would be great, because if staff and faculty are feeling well taken care of, I think that would translate to students as well,” Warner said.

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