Events, recognition, resources, research mark LGBT History Month

University Park, Pa. -- October is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month, which includes National Coming Out Day on Monday, Oct. 11. A listing of events at the University Park campus will recognize members of the LGBT and allied community and advocate on behalf of equal rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to the University's Statement on Intolerance, "the University is committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others. As an educational institution, the University has a mandate to address problems of a society deeply ingrained with bias and prejudice. Toward that end, the University provides educational programs and activities to create an environment in which diversity and understanding of other cultures are valued."

Recently, the University has received national recognition for its breadth of resources, and last month a faculty member and student testified in Washington, D.C., about the strides the LGBTA (the "A" stands for ally) community has made as well as the existing challenges that LGBT students and employees face on college campuses nationwide.

Recognition

In September, Newsweek recognized Penn State as seventh on its list of gay-friendly schools. In August, Penn State was recognized as one of only 19 colleges and universities in the United States to receive a five-star rating on the Campus Pride Climate Index, the highest level of achievement, for its LGBT-friendliness and inclusiveness in its programming and services. The index, which lists more than 230 publicly available campus climate reports online, has been in development since 2001 and "has become a staple in student and faculty research, campus organizing efforts and benchmarking for LGBT student safety and inclusion on campus."

"The rising number of campuses across the nation willing to stand up and speak out for their LGBT students is a testament to the growing recognition that educational environments should be safe and inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," said Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride executive director and creator of the Campus Climate Index. "Although not all schools earn a five-star ranking, their voluntary presence and participation in the Index shows they are committed to 'coming out' for their students and creating truly equal and impactful communities of higher learning."

Resources

The LGBTA Student Resource Center, now a unit of Student Affairs, opened its doors on Jan. 31, 1994, following a recommendation made by the Office of Educational Equity's Commission on LGBT Equity. The center provides a "comprehensive range of education, information and advocacy services, with the goal to create and maintain an open, safe and inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, staff and faculty at Penn State," according to its website. Allison Subasic was hired as the center's first full-time director in November 2001.

"The LGBTA Student Resource Center provides a comprehensive range of education, information, and advocacy services to students as well as staff, faculty, alumni and community members. Basically, I want to make sure LGBTA students, staff and faculty have a safe place to receive support and that they find one person on campus who can be there for them if they need it," Subasic noted.

For student and employee LGBT resources at Penn State campuses, visit the the Commission on LGBT Equity as well as the LGBTA Student Resource Center's resources page, which lists student groups at University Park and other campuses; University-affiliated, community and spiritual organizations; statewide organizations and several hotlines.

There are several additional support options available to LGBT students and employees. The Zero Tolerance for Hate Penn State Support Network, hosted by the Multicutural Resource Center, was started in 2001 to promote a community of mutual support and acceptance. The network is a group of faculty, staff, administrators, students and community members committed to upholding Penn State’s policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment. In addition, the University's Affirmative Action Office accepts complaints from faculty and staff based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to University policy, even though not covered by federal law.

Research

On Sept. 23, Susan Rankin, research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education and associate professor of education in the College Student Affairs Program in Penn State's College of Education, and Penn State student Yvette Lerma traveled to Washington, D.C., to offer testimony to the U.S. Congressional Equity Caucus. They offered study findings from the Q Research Institute on Higher Education's 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People, a national study by Rankin, its lead author; Warren J. Blumenfeld, Iowa State University; Genevieve N. Weber, Hofstra University; and Somjen Frazer, research consultant.

A transcript of the testimony given by Rankin and Lerma is available here. The executive summary of the 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People report is available at http://www.campuspride.org/research/ online.

Findings from the national report include the following points:

• Fewer than 7 percent (300) of U.S. colleges/universities have institutional support (centers, offices, person) for LGBT issues and concerns.

• Four percent (16) of higher educational institutions have LGBT centers.

• There are institutional policies at 4,409 colleges/universities in the country (two- and four-year). (Source: 2009 US Department of Education; http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_265.asp). Of those policies, 578 (13 percent) include content about sexual orientation and 282 (6 percent) include content about gender identity.

• There are 307 (7 percent) colleges/universities that offer same-sex health benefits to faculty/staff.

• 13 states and Washington, D.C. have laws providing protection based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Last Updated September 26, 2011