Campus Pride, a national organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student leaders and campus groups, named USC one of the top 50 most LGBT-friendly campuses in the United States on Aug. 15.
Campus Pride based the rankings on its Campus Pride Index, which ranks colleges and universities on the basis of eight factors: LGBT policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, campus safety, counseling and health and recruitment and retention efforts. More than 425 schools were ranked this year, with 56 achieving the highest possible rating of five stars.
According to Rev. Kelby Harrison, director of the LGBT Resource Center, several factors helped set USC apart from other campuses.
“We have a non-discrimination policy for both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” Harrison said. She also gave credit to the administration for helping to recruit LGBT students and focus on retention. She credited the LGBTRC, which has has a professional staff to support students and to help advocate for LGBT issues across campus.
Response to the ranking has been positive. “It’s such a big step for USC,” said sophomore human biology major Natasha Natarajan. “I’m really excited because it just shows how important LGBT issues are to our school.”
Last semester, Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution to create gender-neutral housing on campus. Such housing, however, has yet to be created.
“I’m not saying it’s perfect here, but a lot of work has been done in making this campus very friendly towards queer people,” said Emily Huang, a senior majoring in sociology. Huang is the networking chair of the Queer & Ally Student Assembly and co-president of OUTreach, a club dedicated to community service in the LGBTQ and ally community.
Students and staff, however, agreed that there is more to be done on campus to make USC an even more LGBT-friendly university. Harrison hopes to see the addition of LGBT studies to the list of minors offered at USC. Troy Rayder, a junior double majoring in gender studies and sociology, cited QuASA’s efforts to push for gender-neutral housing and gender-neutral bathrooms.
“There’s been a lot of support for it lately, but it’s now just about implementation,” Rayder said.
Similarly, Huang hopes to see even further progress on campus.
“It’s not just tolerance that we need. It’s more about acceptance and integration, in a sense,” she said.
Each campus included in the rating has a profile of the school on Campus Pride’s website. The Campus Pride Index was created in 2001 by a team of national LGBT researchers in order to promote improvement of LGBT groups on campuses across the U.S. Among the other schools listed on the Top 50 are nine California universities, including Stanford University, UCLA and Pomona College.