Drexel University, one of the nation’s top competitive co-op education universities with over 12,000 undergraduates and nearly 7,000 graduate students, does not currently have an LGBTQ center, an LGBTQ office, or any centralized resources to address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning students on campus. Recent studies by the Williams Institute and the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) suggest that between 4% and 8% of the nation’s population identifies as LGBTQ, suggesting that Drexel University could potentially have several hundred LGBTQ students.
In the Spring/Summer of 2011, Drexel University Enrollment Management conducted a study to analyze the effectiveness of the Drexel’s LGBTQ recruitment initiatives, and the experiences of Drexel’s LGBTQ students, both during the college-search process and once they arrived on campus. The executive summary of the study concluded that, “the LGBTQ student environment at Drexel was neither a positive nor negative factor in their in their enrollment…and once they are on campus, LGBTQ students do not find Drexel to be especially LGBTQ friendly or unfriendly.”
While only a small percentage of students expressed experiences of harassment or discrimination at Drexel, 30% of the respondents say they “conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid negative consequences.” An important question that was asked during the survey, “How can Drexel become more LGBTQ-friendly?” An overwhelming majority of respondents stated, “An on-Campus LGBTQ Student Center.”
Furthermore, LGBTQ students are at greater risk of discrimination and harassment, depression and suicide, substance abuse and homelessness compared to their heterosexual peers according to research conducted by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and The Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). In the Fall of 2011, the Office of Equality and Diversity reported an increase in LGBTQ-related incidents of harassment and discrimination on campus. While Drexel University’s non-discrimination policy recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity, and the University’s only undergraduate, student-run LGBTQ organization, FUSE (The Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality), seeks to provide social, educational, outreach and advocacy opportunities for its members – more needs to be done. And we must hold Drexel accountable for the safety, support and growth of ALL students.
Since the start of 2012, students, faculty, and professionals of Drexel’s LGBTQ community have been working with Kerry Hooks, Office of Multicultral Programs, Dean Ruth, Dean of Students, Dean Wiedensaul, Associate Dean of Students and Michele Rovinsky, Office of Equality and Diversity to address matters of safety, education, visibility, and campus culture related to LGBTQ-identifying peoples. Recently, SAGE (Sexual and Gender Equality) has been affective in training professional staff of the University and FUSE has been successful in building a partnership with members of Fraternity and Sorority Life. The next step, is an LGBTQ center.
The presence of an LGBTQ center on campus – a safe space staffed with trained professionals – would solidify Drexel's commitment to embracing diversity and raise awareness of a significant portion of the student body that often feel invisible and unaddressed. An LGBTQ center would provide support for students who are questioning their sexuality, looking for assistance with the coming-out process, struggling with discrimination on campus, or searching for a sense of community. An LGBTQ center would also serve as a headquarters for the currently scattered LGBTQ student groups (FUSE, OUTLaws, OUTGrads, LGBTQ Health Alliance) unified by a physical location on campus.
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