LGBTQ rank slips 1 year post-rally

by Beacon Staff • October 4, 2011

strongXakota Espinoza, Beacon Staff/strong

One year ago, more than 700 students—dressed in white and toting posters and rainbow flags--proclaimed a need for acceptance of the gay community as they shouted “love is louder” and “it gets better” in response to a planned protest on Oct. 2 by the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church.

Back then, Emerson was ranked by The Princeton Review as the most LGBT-friendly college in the country.

This year, Emerson fell two spots, ranking third behind New York University and Stanford University.

According to David Soto, The Princeton Review’s director of college rankings, Emerson has been placed in the top ten on the list of top schools accepting of the LGBT community since 2006, earning the number one spot in 2008 and 2010.

Sophomore Andrew Friedman, co-president of Emerson Alliance of Gays Lesbians and Everyone (EAGLE) said that rather than seeing the school’s slip in rankings as a bad thing, he thinks it’s a good sign that homophobia is dissipating across the country.

“It’s good that we’re not number one because we’ve been number one for so long,” the junior communication studies major said. “It’s good that other schools are becoming more gay friendly. Instead of Emerson being ‘the gay school,’ I’d rather us be in the top ten than number one.”

Jeanne Krier, a publicist for the Princeton Review books, said the rankings are based upon an 80-question survey filled out by 122,000 students at 376 schools. The LGBT-friendliness is based on a singular question: “Do students, faculty, and administrators at your college treat all persons equally regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?”

Soto said students were asked to agree or disagree with the question via a five-point Likert scale. Despite slipping two slots down the list, Soto said that generally such fluctuations are common.

“Often there’s very little differentiation between the top school and the number three school,” Soto said in a telephone interview.

While the differences between the top three schools are minute, the most notable discrepancies between NYU and Emerson lie in the number of resources the two schools provide for their students.

According to the NYU website, the school’s LGBTQ Student Center is home to a multitude of various gay student organizations, as well as Peer Education amp; Leadership Training Groups, weekly group discussions, and a weekly newsletter.

“The mission of the NYU LGBTQ Student Center seeks to be in compliance with NYU’s larger mission, which is not just ‘being an university in and of the city,’ but also a university ‘in and of the world,’” said Celiany Rivera, assistant director of the center, in a telephone interview.

Kaylee Alexander, an art history major at NYU, who identifies as a lesbian, said that LGBTQ advocacy is something a lot of people associate with at the university, and that involvement has surged in the past year with the passing of the marriage bill.

“[The center] makes NYU a more open environment,” the junior said. “Students can go in and talk to someone to get answers and information, whatever you need it’s there.”

However, Regina Lutskiy, vice president of EAGLE and LGBT commissioner of the Student Government Association, said that creating a similar hub for gay students may not be the best step forward.

“I don’t think that segregating the students into an LGBT center is necessarily a good idea,” the marketing communication major said. “EAGLE is for gays, lesbians, and everyone—not just gays and lesbians.”

While Lutskiy doesn’t see a need for the center, both she and Friedman agreed that there are still some improvements to be made on LGBTQ issues on campus.

“Because we don’t have issues with advocacy, people think there’s no need to come to an EAGLE meeting,” said Lutskiy. “We need a lot more allies to come to the meetings. Gay people talking about being gay is great, but you need people who aren’t dealing with the issues that you’re dealing with to advocate for you as well.”

Friedman echoed Lutskiy’s opinion and said that there’s always work to be done.

“We need to all get together and celebrate who we are,” Friedman said. “With a little duct tape and a lot of glitter we’re going to make it the best we can.”

With the anniversary of the rally approaching, as well as LGBT History Month taking place in October, Claire Kaiser, organizer of the “Love is Louder” rally, said that while she has no current plans to host another event, she hopes that people will remember the significance of the day, and that someone else will be inspired to do something similar.

“It’s important that people remember it, and that people who are passionate about equality get the opportunity to do different events that bring people together,” the senior theatre studies major said. “Hopefully at some point there can be some kind of celebration that comes from the fact that we love our school separate from anyone’s judgements.”

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