U ranks in top 20 for GLBT

The Advocate College Guide also placed the University’s Duluth campus in the top 100.

Tyler Rushmeyer

The University has been ranked among the top 20 colleges and universities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, according to the Advocate College Guide.

The guide, released last Tuesday, also placed the Duluth campus in its top 100.

Schools were selected on criteria including institutional commitment and support, academic life, housing, counseling and campus safety, said Jeff Theis, marketing manager for Alyson Books, which published the guide.

Anne Phibbs, systemwide director of the University’s GLBT Programs Office, said the ranking is because of the collective effort of the University including faculty, student organizations, alumni, administration and the GLBT staff.

“It speaks volumes about what the ‘U’ has done on both campuses,” she said. “Both have taken significant strides to make these campuses very welcoming and affirming to the GLBT community and that is something to be proud of.”

Phibbs, who has served in her current position since January, said the creation of the GLBT programs office in 1993 and the subsequent resources put behind it by the administration at the Twin Cities campus was a huge step in making the University one of the top schools in the country for GLBT students.

The creation of the anti-discrimination policy also helped, she said.

The department of women’s studies, which will change its name to the department of gender, women and sexuality in the fall, began offering GLBT studies courses and a minor in 2004 and the amount of resources available for these studies continue to increase, Phibbs said.

“Our goal is to eventually get all five colleges in the University system into the top 100, and then the top 20, so there is still work to be done,” she said.

Cassandra Norstrem, president of the GLBTA Network student organization, said one of the reasons she came to the University was because of its tolerant campus.

“I think the ‘U’ is extremely supportive to the GLBT community and that they take pride in that,” said Norstrem, a sociology junior. “Housing and Residential life has really stepped up in taking steps to protect and make GLBT students comfortable through their policies and training.”

Dana Christoph, a senior family social science major, said she does not necessarily agree with the top ranking.

“I think many of us in the GLBT community are still viewed as an exotic novelty, and this is my experience when I am holding hands with my girlfriend,” she said. “No one in the (GLBT) community shows any public displays of affection because of fear of people’s reactions.

“We’re kind of swept to the side in many aspects at the ‘U,’ ” she said. “Things like GLBT issues seem to only be discussed in the studies courses, never in the general ‘U’ community. The ‘U’ may be more progressive than other schools but I still feel the community tolerates but does not accept us.”

Mike Grewe, former co-chairperson of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said the University’s ranking is accurate but the University still has far to go.

“The ranking reflects a strong commitment to the GLBT community by the University and a progressive and accepting campus,” Grewe said. “However, we still have a long ways to go even though we are in the top 20, along with every top school. There is still harassment and bigotry on campus and we’d need to continue to work to put it to an end.”

Grewe is in charge of the Midwest BLGTA College Conference, which is the largest and oldest conference for the GLBT community and is being held for the first time in Minnesota Feb. 16-18, Grewe said.

“The University has a large amount of resources available to us and we’re looking for ways to use them to help smaller colleges promote a better climate for the GLBT community,” Grewe said. “This conference will give a chance to network and become more united on a statewide level.

“The goal is just to become more visible,” Grewe said. “When people are confronted with us, it makes them realize that we’re a reality and we’re here.”

Other Midwest schools in the top 20 include Indiana University, University of Michigan, Oberlin College (Ohio), Ohio State University and the University of Michigan.