U receives top LGBT-friendly ranking

The Twin Cities campus topped the list of campuses ranked by Campus Pride, earning five out of five stars.

U receives top LGBT-friendly ranking

Roy Aker

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is the most LGBT-friendly university in the country, according to a recent report, but some say there are still areas for improvement — especially for students who identify as LGBT but not as gay or lesbian.

Campus Pride, a national nonprofit organization that measures LGBT inclusiveness in higher education, awarded the Twin Cities campus an overall score of 99 percent and five out of five stars for the second consecutive year, according to a University news release.

The University received a five-star score in eight areas including housing, academic life and counseling and health, according to the ranking report. The ranking process included more than 50 self-assessment questions corresponding to the eight areas.

According to the press release, the University received a 98 percent score on LGBT student life and a 96 percent score on LGBT-friendliness in University policies.

Frankie Jader, office manager for the GLBTA Programs Office, filled out a survey after consulting with members of the University’s LGBT community, which formed the basis for the ranking.

Compared to other schools in the Twin Cities area, the University had one of the highest scores, tying with Macalester College.

Stanford University, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor also topped the list.

Jader said she believes the location of the University has a lot to do with the ranking — Minneapolis is consistently ranked one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the U.S.

“[The ranking] feels very comforting,” said Emma Ahlberg, a member of the Queer Student Cultural Center. “However, I’m not going to sit back and say the Twin Cities is perfect, because it’s certainly not.”

Jader said she mostly agrees with the ranking, but said it’s not completely comprehensive. Because the questions are the same for every institution, there isn’t room to add details specific to the University.

What’s more, some within the University’s LGBT community feel their experience wasn’t fully represented by the survey.

Trans-identified students have experienced problems with gender identity on University records and documents, said Gwen Carlson, facilitator of Tranarchy, a group within the QSCC.

The only part of the index the University missed was an “accessible, simple process for students to change their name and gender identity on university records and documents.”

Currently, trans-identified students can change their name with One Stop Student Services, but their legal name will still appear on FAFSA documents and class rosters.

In Minnesota, people can change their legal name through marriage, divorce or legal separation, or by paying a fee and filing a name change action in district court.

Carlson, who legally changed her name for free with the help of University Student Legal Service, said she had trouble figuring out where at the University to submit documentation after the legal name change.

“It’s not clearly connected,” she said, adding that many trans-identified students may not even be aware they can legally change their name with USLA.

“I do agree that the school is good compared to other schools,” Carlson said, “but also agree that there’s area for improvement.”

Ahlberg, who identifies as a cisgender lesbian — someone whose sex was labeled as female at birth and who identifies as both female and lesbian — said she doesn’t have problems with access to resources on campus, but some of her friends and colleagues who identify as transgender do.

“It’s a population within the LGBT community that gets left out,” she said, “because they don’t necessarily fit what the average straight person may see as an acceptable kind of homosexuality.”

Ahlberg said she’s afraid the high ranking will make the University community feel like it can “throw in the towel” on LGBT issues.

“For the University, it would be well advised to remember that queer and minority rights and safety is an ongoing process,” she said. “It’s important for the University to keep in mind those students that don’t necessarily pop up on the radar right away.”