Southern Oregon University has been recognized for the fifth year in a row as one of the nation’s Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities by Campus Pride, a nonprofit that supports and improves campus life for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer) people on more than 1,400 U.S. campuses.
SOU earned five out of five stars overall on the Campus Pride Index, which ranks universities in each of eight categories: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. SOU drew five-star rankings in six of the categories and four-and-a-half stars in the other two.
Thomas Arce, coordinator of SOU’s Queer Resource Center, said this week's Campus Pride recognition is meaningful for prospective and current LGBTQ students, particularly during a period of political polarization on the national level.
“Knowing that the campus they attend or plan to attend pays close attention to these efforts of inclusion and identity are key for their academic and social success in college,” Arce said.
SOU was also ranked 21st among the 50 best colleges for LGBTQ students by the online publication College Choice, which released its 2017 rankings in July.
The Campus Pride list of the top 25 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities included three Oregon institutions: SOU, the University of Oregon and Portland State University. It also included two universities in Washington and two in California. New Jersey is the only other state with three colleges or universities on the list.
Arce said that some of the activities and services that make SOU stand out as welcoming to LGBTQ students are the presence of sexual orientation and gender identity in the university’s non-discrimination policy; gender-inclusive housing options; the stand-alone Queer Resource Center; and LGBTQ-related academic offerings through the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program. SOU also participates in LGBTQ-specific college fairs and its counseling and health staff provide queer- and trans-friendly services.
“These are just some of avenues that we're evaluated on, and (that) provide a culture of care specifically for our LGBTQ students to thrive and persist at SOU,” Arce said.
The Campus Pride list is considered the most trusted and reliable list of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, said Shane Windmeyer, the organization’s executive director and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “These are the campuses leading the way for LGBTQ inclusion and who have come out to support LGBTQ students from the first day of classes through graduation day,” Windmeyer said.