Rutgers ranked as one of the top 25 LGBTQ-friendly colleges in U.S. for third year
For the third year in a row, the University has been ranked as one of the top 25 LGBTQ-friendly colleges in the nation, according to Campus Pride’s official website.
The list, which was released on Aug. 31, is compiled according to the all-inclusive Campus Pride Index. The index is a free benchmarking tool many colleges and universities use to evaluate and improve their LGBTQ on-campus support programs.
“The main thing that has helped make Rutgers so LGBTQ-friendly has been the outreach and efforts of the faculty, staff and students here,” said Zaneta Rago, the director of the Rutgers University Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities. “Without their support and their desire to learn more, to create programs and to self-educate, we would not be as LGBTQ-friendly.”
The University is a great advocate of student diversity, she said. But we cannot talk about diversity without addressing LGBTQ students and addressing their specific needs.
Rutgers has always been at the forefront of advocating diversity within the community. According to an article on mycentraljersey.com, the first LGBTQ student group emerged as early as 1969. Since then, the University has gone on to establish a center and implement a number of supportive programs and policies.
“One of the main components (of our success) is having some sort of LGBTQ center on campus,” Zaneta said. “Having a center on campus that is professionally staffed year to year (is crucial) ... as students come to the institution, they take on leadership positions and train new students so the Center doesn’t just end once they graduate.”
Diko Gidado, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she would like to see more information sessions hosted for people who do not identify as LGBTQ, but still want to learn more about the community and its experiences.
She said that it would be a great way to deepen understanding of their struggles and successes.
“It’s awesome that I’m going to a school that is friendly like that,” Gidado said. “I think that in this day and age, people are becoming pretty tolerant, but maybe if people were more aware of what it means to be LGBTQ, then they would be (more understanding).”
Shivram Viswanathan, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he has not had any personally polarizing experiences at Rutgers because he is not a member of the LGBTQ community, but believes the ranking is warranted. The University has an environment that tries to promote awareness about the LGBTQ community, he said.
"(I am) in no way saying there isn’t room to grow or that there isn’t more to be done, but this is a great step in the history of Rutgers and the Rutgers community as a whole,” Viswanathan said.
Every year, the University runs numerous events throughout the year that help foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for students, regardless of their sexuality or gender. Rago highlighted several events, including a welcome week in September, RU Ally week in October, Trans-awareness in November and "Gaypril," which spans the entire month of April.
“We’ve implemented the first phase of our main procedure on campus,” she said. “Going further with the main procedure ... I think it’s very important that every single person makes a concentrated effort to dedicate (themselves to understanding) what LGBTQ folks go through.”
Jerry Lu, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said it is great to see how far everyone has come in accepting LGBTQ individuals. He notes that in the span of just a few decades, society has gone from discriminating against the vast majority of the LGBTQ community to being more universally accepting, even at such a large institution like Rutgers.
“It’s great that we are now finally getting to the point where even state-funded schools like Rutgers are being open to the LGBTQ community,” Lu said. “Ultimately the direction that Rutgers is going is pretty decent."
It is necessary that more people become active and engaged participants who know how to intervene, Rago said.
“Just because we have policies, procedures, programs and a center in place, it doesn’t necessarily mean that active bias will not continue to happen," she said.