For many college students, life on campus may be their first opportunity to live on their own. And once they’re at school, their physical and mental comfort can spell the difference between a good or bad college experience. Those issues can be especially significant for students who identify as LGBTQ.
Each year, the Campus Pride Index names the top 30 universities across the country who foster an inclusive environment for LGBTQ students. For the fourth year in a row, UW-Milwaukee has been named one of the most welcoming universities in the country.
Authors of the study cite UWM's inclusive housing policy, LGBT Studies program, gender-neutral bathroom facilities and Chancellor's Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy, as contributing to the school's nearly perfect score on the Index.
"I think that it demonstrates the commitment from administration, faculty, staff, and the campus community to really make UWM stand out and be not only on the map, but also a treasure on the map for LGBTQ+ communities," says Jen Murray, director of the UWM LGBT Resource Center.
The Campus Pride Index officially launched in 2007, but efforts at UWM to make the community a more inclusive place have been made long before an official scorecard. In 1995, the Chancellor's Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy was established (although it only included Lesbian and Gay at the time of its founding). Before that, the Gay People's Union (GPU) student organization was active in campus life during the 1970s to create social change with an emphasis on education and legal reform concerning LGBTQ matters.
Today, the inclusive environment and initiatives mainly come from the students themselves. The LGBT Resource Center is strictly a student led and funded initiative, making the national recognition a true testament to the academic, social, and environmental components students influence.
"I would say that the high score comes from student engagement and really reflecting the needs of our campus population. So, students have a voice and have an opportunity to make a difference and create change," notes Murray. "Students oftentimes are looking for opportunities to live, learn, and socialize within spaces that honor and respect the totality of who they are."