Can You Hear Us Now? Community Colleges and the Campus Pride Index

South Representative and Equity and Diversity Chair

While attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have changed rapidly in recent years, the prospect of a dramatic shift in priorities in LGBTQ protections under the incoming presidential administration should prompt community colleges to take stock of how they are treating LGTBQ students locally. LGBTQ students often feel concerned over the attitudes of fellow students towards those who openly express their sexuality or gender identity, and these students are often concerned for their safety due to the unpredictable responses campus public safety or law enforcement have towards acts of violence or intimidation against members of the LGBTQ community. In short, for many LGBTQ students the academy can be a place of anxiety and fear if they attempt to express themselves openly. Furthermore, many colleges may not even realize that LGBTQ students and their allies see the college as a place that is not accepting to open expressions of homosexuality or transgendered identity.

The ASCCC approved a resolution in 2011 to encourage community colleges to participate in the Campus Pride Index (CPI) project created by Campus Pride, an online community and organization whose purpose and mission is to provide resources, programs, and services that support LGBTQ students and their student and staff allies. To date, only five of the 113 California community colleges have participated in the self-assessment and made their results public on the Campus Pride website. More than five community colleges may have participated, but colleges have the option to make their results public or not. If your college has not yet participated in the assessment, faculty should make the case locally to not only complete the index but to make the results very public.

Encouraging your college to undertake the index survey and make a commitment to publicizing the results can jumpstart student and staff awareness of LGBTQ issues and current trends while opening the eyes and ears of your college’s collective mind to the way LGBTQ students may perceive the college. This experience can be jarring for college leaders, even at colleges that believe themselves to be open and responsive to the needs of all students. Santa Rosa Junior College found this fact out firsthand in 2013 as it went through the process. Santa Rosa’s experiences and response to the index are the subject of a 2014 Rostrum article entitled “LGBT Campus Climate Survey – An Eye-Opening Experience.” For Santa Rosa, making the results public helped to prioritize necessary actions to address deficiencies and unexpected findings and elevated the needs of LGBTQ students in the college’s planning processes.

A college’s involvement in the CPI is not the end of the conversation but rather the beginning of the journey for many colleges. The Campus Pride organization is quick to point out that the assessment questions should not take the place of a comprehensive campus climate survey.  On the other hand, many colleges’ student satisfaction surveys do not ask any specific questions about the LGBTQ experience or include students who identify as LGBTQ identified as subsections in the data analysis. If your college does not collect such data, your institution cannot know how or if your LGBTQ students are feeling included and safe in the college community. Participation in the CPI can be the first step toward better communication with this community of students and staff in hopes of breaking down barriers to student success for all.