GV recieves five-star LGBT-friendly campus rating

GVL/Jessica Hollenbeck

Staff members Anthony Clemons and Deva Hull speak in the LGBTQ resrouce center on Friday

GVL/Jessica Hollenbeck Staff members Anthony Clemons and Deva Hull speak in the LGBTQ resrouce center on Friday

Lizzy Balboa

Grand Valley State University joined 39 other colleges around the U.S. to receive a five-star rating – the highest rating possible – on the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index.

Colette Seguin Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center at GVSU, wrote in an announcement that the rating reflects GVSU’s commitment to and value of inclusion.

Seguin Beighley added that the efforts of the university’s Gender Expression and Equity Committee strongly contributed to the move from 4.5 to five stars.

“For nearly two years, the committee has examined policies across campus as they pertain to accommodating transgender students, faculty and staff members,” Seguin Beighley wrote. “Though the committee is completing its final recommendations, which will be presented to the Senior Management Team, many of the departments or units across campus have already complied with these recommendations after learning the changes that needed to be made.”

The director also attributed the accomplishment to the addition of gender-neutral housing as well as the LGBTQ minor, which she said is planned to be available to students in the fall 2013 semester.

“This recognition is the result of across-campus collaborations, reflecting an institutional commitment to the values of equality and justice for our LGBT communities,” Seguin Beighley wrote.

The university met all qualifications in the areas of LGBT Academic Life, LGBT Student Life, LGBT Campus Safety and LGBT Recruitment and Retention Efforts. In almost all categories, GVSU scored a 4.5 rating or higher, but it only received a 3.5 star rating in the area of LGBT Counseling and Health.

Under this category, the university failed to meet two requirements. First, it does not provide training to health center staff to accommodate the special health care needs of LGBT patients. Second, it does not provide insurance opportunities for transsexual students to receive hormone therapy treatment.

Dwight Hamilton, assistant vice president for Affirmative Action, said the university has no plans to change its health care codes at the moment, “but the Gender Identity and Expression Committee has compiled information regarding trans-inclusive benefits and has looked at what other institutions are doing.”

Hamilton said GVSU is looking into other ways to better serve the LGBT community, like allowing easy name changes on university records to accommodate transgender students.

“Currently most of our information systems, like Banner, require us to use students’ legal names,” Hamilton said. “Unless the student changes his or her legal name, we’re currently limited in options. We have looked into using ‘preferred names’ in our systems to better accommodate students and have looked into some solutions used by other universities, but as of now, a change hasn’t been feasible with our systems. The creators of the Banner system (an outside provider), however, are looking into a solution.”

Hamilton said the Gender Identity and Expression Committee is also finalizing a university-wide assessment to determine where GVSU stands on issues affecting the transgender community. Furthermore, the Campus Climate Implementation Committee is using the 2011 myGVSU surveys to identify ways to improve the campus atmosphere for the LGBT community.

The survey result summary indicated the university has a number of areas for improvement, including LGBT employee job satisfaction and workplace environment. For students, prejudice on the part of peers and faculty members seemed a prevalent issue to address.

Despite the noted areas progressed in, GVSU’s welcoming attitude and inclusive policies have impressed many potential students and served as their main purpose for choosing the university.

Seguin Beighley said only 7 percent of college campuses around the U.S. offer resource centers for the LGBT community, so the unique quality of providing the center has contributed to the recruitment of many GVSU students.

“In the fall, we have both LGBT students as well as allies come into the center and say that the reason they chose GVSU was because we have an LGBT Resource Center and that spoke to them about the inclusive values of our university,” Seguin Beighley said. “One first-year student this fall said, ‘Even though I’m not a member of the LGBT community, I saw this center on my tour and thought ‘This is where I want to go!’’”

Freshman Errin Fornicola, who identifies as part of the LGBT community, was one of the students impressed by the resources offered.

“When I first started looking at Grand Valley, the fact that there was an actual physical ‘sanctuary’ for LGBT students was really neat to me,” Fornicola said. Some of the features that attracted her were the LGBTQ courses and the Freshman Queer Alliance club.

So far, the university has met her expectations for inclusiveness.

“There’s nothing I can think for GVSU to improve on,” Fornicola said. “It’s all been fantastic so far and I definitely don’t regret coming here.”
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