UI earns 4 out of 5 stars for LGBTQ friendliness

The University of Iowa is the highest ranked institution in the state for campus pride on a national benchmarking tool that measures the LGBTQ-friendliness of college campuses.

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UI earns 4 out of 5 stars for LGBTQ friendliness

Participants in Iowa City Pride parade walk towards the old capital.

Participants in Iowa City Pride parade walk towards the old capital.

Roman Slabach

Participants in Iowa City Pride parade walk towards the old capital.

Roman Slabach

Roman Slabach

Participants in Iowa City Pride parade walk towards the old capital.

Josie Fischels, News Reporter

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The University of Iowa earned four out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index, an online tool that calculates and displays the LGBTQ-friendliness of college campuses. This measurement makes the UI the highest-ranking institution in the state.

The website, campusprideindex.org, measures every gender- and orientation-based aspect of a university, such as academic life, campus safety, and policy inclusion.

“Colleges and universities want LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff to be out and proud as part of the diversity of the campus community,” the website said. “The Campus Pride Index provides campuses the opportunity to come out as LGBTQ-friendly and take responsibility for continually improving their LGBTQ campus climate.”

According to the measurements, the UI scored highest in LGBTQ-friendly Academic Life with five stars, while scoring lowest in the Housing and Residence Life category with only two stars.

Kailee Karr, an academic coach in the UI Center for Diversity & Enrichment, works primarily with underrepresented students at the UI, including the LGBTQ student community.

She said she believes that the UI’s ranking in the Housing & Residence Life category can only go up, now that the university offers the LGBTQ Living Learning Community “All In” in Stanley Hall and roommate-matching opportunities for LGBTQ-identifying students to find an LGBTQ-friendly roommate.

“I definitely think there’s always room for growth,” she said. “There are always ways to get better, and I truly think that the University of Iowa is progressive and active in searching for ways to get better.”

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Karr also sits on the Trans Inclusivity Task Force, a group of staff and faculty members who gather to discuss policy changes and ways to make the UI campus more trans- and gender-nonconforming inclusive. The force was integral in providing gender-neutral restrooms across campus, she said.

“The University of Iowa values the diversity of its faculty, staff, and students, and we are proud of the work we have done to be an LGBTQ-friendly campus,” said UI Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers, who also serves as the interim chief diversity officer, in an email to The Daily Iowan. “We strive to be a campus on which all students can achieve their best in a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment.”

In 2016, the UI became one of the first universities in the nation to ask students for their preferred names and pronouns and to offer a third gender option. Karr said progress continues to be made today with the development of new initiatives.

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One ongoing program she noted that the Campus Pride Index recognizes is the Safe Zone Training for staff and faculty. According to the Diversity at Iowa webpage, the project offers information on inclusion, affirmation, and how to provide support for members of the LGBTQ community at the university.

Participants of the training can attend up to three educational workshops in which they learn about the LGBTQ experience and campus resources. After completing the workshops, participants are given the opportunity to become a recognized Safe Zone by displaying the Safe Zone symbols in their workspaces.

“I understand why we are moving up in the [Campus Pride] rankings, because things really are getting done,” Karr said. “There are a lot of motivated, great individuals who are really working hard to make the campus better, and I think it’s being shown.”