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UI rated LGBT friendly

BY JORDYN REILAND | SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa is a lesbisan, gay, bisexual, and transgender-friendly community, a recent assessment said.

According to the Campus Climate index produced by the Campus Pride organization, the UI ranked 4.5 on a five-star maximum after being voluntarily assessed on its LGBT-friendly policies, practices, and programs.

Though the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allied Union worked with the UI in pushing for the index, students and officials in the LGBT community believe the university has room for improvement.

Preston Keith, the LGBT Resource Center manager, said the UI could improve its ranking by working to better include members of the transgender community.

“We want all of our students to feel comfortable and safe here on and off campus, and by looking into the needs of the transgender students, we can achieve that,” Keith said.

Georgina Dodge, the UI’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president, agreed.

“One of the goals we want to work on is being able to identify these LGBT students and ask them communicate their needs,” she said, noting that this is the first year the UI has entered the index.

“We feel that we are hearing from the same people in the community over and over, and we want to be able to aid the community more as a whole.”

Through the index, colleges are assessed by answering 50 questions concerning policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts, said Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride.

The index was created to help colleges remain aware of needs in the LGBT communities on campus, Windmeyer said.

The school can receive anywhere from one to five stars. All schools that participate in the index are commended regardless of their scores.

The UI has a long history of acceptance. Its Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allied Union was founded in 1970. It is the oldest recognized and continuously funded group on campus.

Quentin Hill, an executive board member of the union, agreed transgender issues should be further examined on campus.

“The UI needs to educate itself more with the transgender community,” Hill said. “Many transgender students don’t feel welcome here at the UI because of the lack of such things as gender-neutral bathrooms and housing.”

Union executive-board member Alexandra Nasiff said the creation of an LGBT sorority or fraternity would be an important idea to look into as well as more recruitment efforts with specific pamphlets or advertising for LGBT students.

The UI is planning for the LGBT Living-Learning Community next fall, in which first-year students can live on a floor where they can both engage in LGBT activities and meet other students who are going through the similar everyday issues and experiences.

Hill said he believed the reason the LGBT Living-Learning Community wasn’t available this year because only 10 people signed up. He attributes this to a lack of advertising.

“It’s important that the LGBT community is able to get its own floor so that students can be more comfortable and feel more safe,” he said. “I live in Hillcrest, and it isn’t the easiest place for a gay man to live.”


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