OU ranks as one of state’s top LGBTQIA+-inclusive campuses

It’s no secret that Oakland University is a school that embraces the LGBTQIA+ (LGBT) community. In the basement of the Oakland Center is the Gender & Sexuality Center, which is devoted to helping people of nonbinary genders and any sexual orientation.

This center is one of the first things people see when they tour OU. It sends the message to everyone that OU is a school where students are united, no matter what their differences.

Recently, Campus Pride Index ranked OU as one of the top LGBT-friendly universities in the state of Michigan. The Campus Pride Index organization identifies itself on its website as a “National Listing of LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities.” This organization essentially goes around and gives various colleges and universities report cards stating  how LGBT-friendly the schools are.

If people look up OU on The Campus Pride Index website, they will see that the Index graded OU based upon several categories, including LGBT academic life, housing and residence, student life, and counseling and health.

OU was given a rank of four out of five. Eastern Michigan University was the only other school in the state of Michigan to match OU’s score.

“Having [four stars] is a huge deal,” said Grace Wojcik, coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center. “We’ve been working really hard to make sure our policies and practices are updated to include LGBTQ people. The index rates a variety of things: policy inclusion, student life, housing, campus safety and even academic life. [The score] means we’ve been able to kind of move forward through what we offer on campus and our policy offerings as well.”

Wojcik discussed many of the resources offered on campus. She said that OU offers S.A.F.E. On Campus Training for students, staff and faculty at both introductory and advanced levels.

Additionally, Wojcik said that the Gender & Sexuality Center is relaunching its Peer Mentoring Program in fall of 2017.

“It’s a year-long mentoring relationship,” Wojcik said. “It’s similarly modeled after the CMI [Center for Multicultural Initiatives] mentor program. It can be a difficult time coming to OU if you’ve never been to college before. It’s a larger campus; it can be overwhelming for folks. So, we’re looking to support students throughout that. Whether it’s through academic support, social development support or just campus support/resource support.”

The Gender & Sexuality Center  offers safer sex materials, had a Fall 2016 Welcome Reception and helps coordinate the pride week calendar. There are also social awareness clubs on campus, including the Gay Straight Alliance.

“The Gender & Sexuality Center is open to everyone, so you don’t have to identify as LGBTQIA in any way,” Wojcik said. “Allies are always welcome.”

Wojcik also stressed that if students aren’t comfortable visiting the center, they can contact the center privately through email, phone or asking a question on the center’s webpage.

“I’m really proud,” said Scott Spencer, an undecided major. “We have a president who supports gay marriage and a Republican President-elect that openly waves pride flags. And there was that Supreme Court ruling a few years back. We’ve come a long way.”

The score of four stars is a huge accomplishment. OU’s ability to accommodate is something students can be proud of. With how hard OU and the center are working, four stars might be only the beginning.